Options considered to address rice shortage: Imports vs. intervention
o Make rice an essential commodity: Farmers
o Artificial shortage by millers and sellers: Govt.
By Skandha Gunasekara
The Government is looking at importing rice as an option to tackle the artificial rice shortage in the country, despite demands to make it an essential commodity.
Government Spokesman and former State Minister of Investment Promotion Keheliya Rambukwella said that restarting the importation of rice could resolve the shortage problem.
“We have done this in the past and know by experience that once (rice) importation begins, all those mill owners and sellers hoarding stocks will immediately put it out into the market,” he said.
He also said that another option was for the Government to be more involved in the industry.
“If the Government plays a more active role, then the private sector will have to compete. This will make sure there is no shortage, also ensuring competitive prices are given for the consumers,” he said, noting that at present, a few private sector individuals are attempting to monopolise the market.
However, farmers’ associations are demanding that rice be made an essential good. All Island Farmers Federation (AIFF) National Co- ordinator Namal Karunaratne said they had made the request from the Government.
“We have spoken with the Minister of Agriculture to make rice an essential item. Both the consumer as well as the farmer are affected by these rackets,” he said.
Karunaratne asserted that declaring rice an essential commodity was the only permanent solution.