Government will keep rice prices stable

The immediate result of the lockdown of countries around the world is that prices of goods rise drastically, Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena said.

Dr. Gunawardena was speaking at a press conference held in Colombo today.

He said that the lockdown of the country due to the COVID-19 epidemic has a major impact on the country’s manufacturing and distribution processes. There is a risk of rising commodity prices due to the disruption of the supply chain around the world. In such a situation, a responsible Government cannot allow the price of rice, the staple food of the people, to rise.

Rice is the staple food of the vast majority of the people in our country. The people of this country had a long-standing complaint about the price of rice. This is due to the fact the businessmen have been selling rice at a price higher than Government-mandated maximum retail price in the recent past.

Therefore, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet have unanimously decided to provide the public with a price of less than 100 rupees per kilo of rice. Amendments have been made to the Consumer Affairs Authority Act to regulate practices in the rice market in violation of existing laws framed by the business community in a manner beyond the control of the government. Accordingly, the relevant gazette notification has been issued with the approval of the Cabinet to increase the fine from Rs.2, 500 to Rs.100, 000 for selling rice at higher prices, he added.

In addition, in order to prevent an artificial shortage of rice in the market, the Government has issued Letters of Credit to import certain stocks of rice and to maintain stocks, he said.

Meanwhile, a large number of officials led by Consumer Affairs Authority Chairman Major General Shantha Dissanayake have launched an operation to raid and seal large stocks of rice stored by middlemen in the Polonnaruwa and Ampara districts.

According to the available data, six rice stores which had stored more than four million kilos of rice were sealed yesterday and legal action has been taken against them.

These middlemen have routinely stockpiled to create an artificial shortage of rice in the country. Many of these intermediaries have obtained loans from State banks to maintain these stocks. He also stated that after the amendments to the Act, it is hoped to confiscate the stocks of rice thus collected.

by Daily News Sri Lanka

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