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Emergency import of 500,000 tons of rice

The Government is to make an emergency import of 500,000 tons of rice to face a feared shortfall in local production due to adverse weather conditions.

The state will import 300,000 tons whilst the private sector will be allowed to import the remaining 200,000 tons. Stocks will come mainly from Vietnam, Myanmar, Pakistan and Thailand. Officials have been tasked to visit these countries to assess prices and quality.

The Cabinet Sub Committee on Cost of Living at recent a meeting presided over by President Maithripala Sirisena, discussed the crisis arising out of the drop in production. One of the immediate measures then was to remove the five rupee tax on imported rice and revise the Maximum Retail Price to match locally produced varieties in the market. The sub committee noted that adequate paddy stocks were also not available. It was observed that in India also rice prices had risen due to shortages.

President Sirisena has since been spearheading a diplomatic push to buy stocks from abroad. He has personally spoken on the telephone to those at Sri Lanka diplomatic missions abroad and leaders of rice producing countries in South Asia.

The Co-operative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) is to import stocks on behalf of the Government. However, the CWE is in a financial crisis and is unable to pay the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) a staggering Rs 3.7 billion.

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