50,000 metric tons of keeri samba rice import irregularity exposed
By: Staff Writer
Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka trade ministry’s irregular measures to import 50,000 metric tons of keeri samba rice in lieu of the festive season without following proper procedure allowing10 selected importers to carry out the task in their own way, commodity exporters complained.
The Ministry has selected those importers from a list of companies engaged in rice importation indicated in a SMS received by the relevant officers without proper evaluation of their eligibility, they said.
It has been revealed that the trade ministry has not followed any registration procedure for the selection of these importers and it has not considered previous experience in importing rice and the quantity of rice that they are going to import.
Azeez Brothers, Benson Traders, RTS Foods Ltd, ENSEN Trading Ltd, VD Holdings, Nandana Enterprise, Gnanam Imports.Pulses Processing Ltd, Barik Enterprise and PM Mohomed Ali Ltd were the importers named in the SMS.
SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva, said the Cabinet has reportedly granted approval for the import despite the upcoming Maha season harvest, with estimates pointing to a yield of over 2 million metric tons of rice, which is 80% of the country’s annual requirement.
He also questioned why a decision to import rice for the festive season is taking place so late in the day, as it takes over two weeks for imports to reach Sri Lanka, and asked if there is already a ship carrying rice consignments anchored in the outer harbour.
“This is madness, this is almost like the sugar scam. Red raw rice is over Rs. 180 a kg, which is difficult for the poor man to afford. Keeri Samba is sold at over Rs. 300 a kg, so what is the logic behind importing Samba?
Why is that order being placed now? Farmers incur a cost of about Rs. 90 to produce a kg of rice. When you make room for imports that has a cascading impact on prices, so how does the Government hope to protect and promote local agriculture,” De Silva asked.
He added the move to allow imports will benefit racketeers, and the Government may also look to reduce prices in the wake of an election year. De Silva added such a measure will compromise local agriculture output and confidence, in a year production costs are billed to rice with the increase in VAT.
“We call on the Government not to allow this. There must be a better plan to support local agriculture if we want it to become one of our key sectors.
Local onion farmers are struggling because of bad policy and decisions surrounding imports, and the lack of storage facilities and support that were disrupted by this Government when it came into power under President Rajapaksa,” he stated.