News

Rice shortage: Govt. gets tough

By Skandha Gunasekara

The Government would take action against those causing an artificial rice shortage, regardless of whether members of the Government are involved, The Sunday Morning learnt.

Government Spokesman and former State Minister of Investment Promotion Keheliya Rambukwella told The Sunday Morning that he did not accept that there was a rice shortage. “I don’t believe there is a shortage. It has been artificially created. There are enough stocks of rice,” the Spokesman said.

He noted that the Government would take stern action and that no one would be spared, regardless of political affiliation.

“This is serious. Whoever the crooks, action will be taken against them. This is not a small matter. Creating an artificial rice shortage could lead to the masses starving. This is unacceptable,” Rambukwella said.

Recent reports have indicated that stores did not have rice stocks available, particularly nadu and kekulu.

All Ceylon Farmers Federation Head Namal Karunaratne, speaking to The Sunday Morning, said that the shortage was the work of a handful of large-scale rice mill owners who were attempting to monopolise the industry.

“Large-scale owners sell rice at higher costs than the retail price given by the Government. This causes the retail sellers to increase prices when selling to consumers. As a result, the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) penalises the retail sellers,” he said.

He said that due to the injustice experienced by the retail sellers, they had refused to sell rice.

“The retail sellers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they don’t sell the rice at a price higher than the regulated price, they incur losses because they buy it at unreasonable prices. But if they do sell it at a higher price, they get penalised by the CAA.

“As a result, they have decided to cease selling rice,” Karunaratne said.

He said that a few large-scale mill owners were behind the artificial shortage, and that they were part of the current Government. “These crooks are all part of the Government. Their aim by doing this is to have the control price removed so that they can sell rice at a price they want to,” he added.