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Ministers step out to marketplace to quell rumours

(UDHAYAM, COLOMBO) – Ahead of the Sinhala and Hindu New Year season Ministers in charge of economy and trade jointly stepped out to the marketplace on Friday to debunk speculations of any shortages and ensure that there will be uninterrupted food, commodity and essential supplies for the public to enjoy the festivities.

“We find that there are more than enough supplies of all essential items. Rice stocks have increased and sufficient stocks are now available in the market for the next two months,” announced Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen yesterday in Pettah market, Colombo.

Minister Bathiudeen was speaking to the press after his inspection tour of retail and wholesale distributors of Colombo wholesale market epicentre at 5th Cross Street, Pettah, joined by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake.

The unannounced inspections were facilitated by the powerful Essential Food Commodity Importers and Traders Association (EFCITA) on the directions of President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Cost of Living.

“In fact rice is sold less than government’s MRPs in this open market. Here we found a kilo of Nadu at Rs 68 and white rice at Rs 60 at wholesale prices. We can assure that there will be no shortages. There are attempts by some errant traders and market manipulators to cash in on season’s demand. They are spreading false rumors of shortages, to hike prices during the season. They are errant and legal action will be taken against such violators, if detected,” the Minister said.

“We are here on the instructions of the President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. As you can see with your own eyes, there are no shortages. The stories of shortages are rumors and are spread by unscrupulous elements,” Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake voiced.

Spokesman of EFCITA Hemaka Fernando said that unscrupulous elements are trying to cash in on the season by creating artificial shortages, which is illegal.

“What Minister Bathiudeen just said is correct-in that there are stocks of all essential items lasting more than two months in the country. Also wholesale prices are much lower. For example, we expect sugar price to increase as the season gets closer, but this year, sugar prices are falling. A kilo of sugar which was at Rs 103 last week today only sells at Rs 98.”

Speaking of the health quality of imported rice, EFCITA’s Fernando asked how it could be so and alleged certain elements and some local millers behind this. “Unscrupulous elements including some rice millers have created fear about imported rice saying its harmful which is false-every grain of rice commercially imported to Sri Lanka is inspected closely by Customs, along with phytosanitary and fumigation certifications. Only imported rice entering our market has such strong certifications. How can such rice be harmful to health?”

The items identified by the government as “essential” are chicken meat, red dhal, designated rice types, sprats, chickpeas, green grams, canned fish, white flour, white sugar, full cream milk powder, B onions, potatoes, dried chilies, dried fishes, Maldive fish and Sustagen.

Courtesy: Daily FT

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