Govt. allocates Rs. 1,000 mn to help rice millers

The Government has decided to allocate Rs.1,000 million to implement a concessionary programme to address the severe financial crisis faced by small and medium scale rice millers and a solution to the problem of non-competitive stocks of paddy in the market.

Cabinet approval has been granted for the concessionary programme and the first phase of the programme will be implemented within the next few days, Economic Reforms Minister Dr.Harsha de Silva yesterday said.

He said that the Government has provided financial assistance through the Co-operative Society through the Co-operative Society.

Accordingly, Co-operative Societies at District level will provide financial assistance free of interest on the basis of repayment of rice mill owners.

The Minister was addressing a special press briefing in Colombo yesterday. The Minister briefed the media on the relief measures faced by the small and medium scale rice mill owners.

Minister De Silva said that the farmers who had not been able to earn much in the last five harvesting seasons and they will get a fair price for their paddy harvest. He pointed out that there is a need for trade competitiveness and he is of the view that due to the mediation of the government, the farmers will be given the highest price. He said that both the Central and the Rice Mill owners had been facing a financial crisis for several years.

Rs.1 billion will be allocated by the Treasury via Ministry of Agriculture to District Secretaries who will forward it to Assistant District Co-operative Commissioners. They will then provide financial assistant to the mill owners under the supervision of the District Co-operative Society.

The Cabinet Paper was presented by President Maithripala Sirisena following a discussion between rice mill owners, bankers, ministers, farmers and other representatives.

Minister De Silva said that there is no need to import rice with the implementation of this programme. He said that steps will be taken to purchase 1,000 metric tons of paddy on a daily basis in the near future. He said that the Paddy Marketing Board has been about Rs.19 billion in debt in recent years.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Rice Producers’ Co-operative Society President Mudith Perera said that around 50% of small and medium scale rice mill owners left the industry due to the wrong policy decisions taken by previous governments.

He said that this new programme would reduce the price of a kilogramme of rice from Rs.10 to Rs.20 in the future, he said. This is a good opportunity for the farmers to develop their economy.


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