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Manufacturers in dilemma: Lack of clarity on sectors facing import restrictions

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The Sri Lanka Trade Development Council (SLTDC) urged the Government to publicise the exact sectors for which the Government’s import restriction has been imposed, as they claimed thousands of manufactures were in a dilemma as they were unaware of whether they could import raw materials for their businesses or not.

Speaking to The Morning, SLTDC Chairman Roshana Waduge stressed that even the authorities were not aware of the categories to which the import restrictions apply.

“When the manufactures asked about the possibility of importing raw materials from (the) Customs (Department), they directed them to the Finance Ministry. When questioning the Finance Ministry, it turned out the officials there too were not aware,” he stressed.

In a bid to stop foreign exchange outflows and to stabilise the fast-depreciating rupee, the Government imposed restrictions on luxury items under the Banking Act, which empowers the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to issue directives to licensed banks regarding the manner in which they conduct business.

The regulator has thus instructed the banks to cease facilitating imports of motor vehicles on Letters of Credit (LCs) and also specified non-essential items.

Waduge stressed that the Government-imposed restriction was not clear and therefore urged the Government to publicise the areas affected by the restriction.

However, he stressed that thousands of businesses were struggling to start production operations, and were finding it difficult due to the ongoing restrictions.

Meanwhile, Colombo Importers’ Association member Alshafa Yoosuf told The Morning that the importers were running at a loss and shared that with the Government’s restrictions, “we were required to keep a 300% bank guarantee to release a container”.

“We are losing millions and second and third-level retailers are losing their income as well,” he added.

Asked why they couldn’t purchase from local farmers, Yoosuf stressed that local supply was not adequate to meet the demand. In addition, the prices were high and many people were not capable of purchasing at such rates, he said.

The ban imposed on the import of non-essential food items would be further continued despite the relaxing of strict measures countrywide, except in four high-risk districts, in view of reviving the economy, Agriculture Minister Chamal Rajapaksa said.

He told The Morning the ban on the importation of certain food items would be continued so as to promote the local agriculture sector, which saw a sudden boost during the curfew.