81 sugar containers released with no demurrage

  • Released following sustained lobbying by importers: Ministry
  • Move was to ‘reduce’ sugar prices in the market

By Imesh Ranasinghe

The Ministry of Ports and Shipping has released 81 containers of sugar, which were held in the Colombo Port, to their respective importers without acquiring any port charges, with the intention of reducing sugar prices in the market, The Sunday Morning Business learns.

Speaking to us, Secretary to the Ministry of Ports and Shipping Chandana Jayalal said this was done following a request made by certain importers to release their sugar containers without charging the late fee or demurrage, as the containers had been in the terminals beyond the free time period they were allowed.

“The Minister has the power to release a certain amount of containers without charging any payments due, and based on that, we have released about 81 containers of sugar without any port charges,” he said.

Commenting on the media reports that the Minister of Port is planning on releasing 600 containers of sugar, he said that 600 could be the number of all sugar containers held in the three terminals of Colombo Port.

However, he said that most of the containers out of 81 released are not yet removed from the terminals by the importers.

On 1 September, the Government seized 29,900 metric tonnes (MT) of sugar kept in warehouses of private companies in Mabola, Wattala, Muthurajawela, and Kiribathgoda. The sugar was reportedly from Pyramid Wilmar, Global Trading, Wilson Trading Company, and R.G. Stores.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa promulgated emergency regulation from midnight of 30 August to seize and confiscate stocks of sugar, rice, and paddy, along with the buildings. Maj. Gen. N.D.S.P. Niwunhella was appointed as the Commissioner General of Essential Services by the President to carry out the task.

According to a statement by the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA), 584,000 metric tonnes of sugar had been imported to Sri Lanka between 14 October 2020 and 30 June 2021.

At a press conference held on 1 September, State Minister of Co-operative Services, Marketing Development, and Consumer Protection Lasantha Alagiyawanna said that the sugar importer had refused to reduce the price of sugar.

He said they held discussions with about 15 -20 sugar importers. As the payments for sugar imported now should be made after 180 days, importers had refused to reduce the prices because in 180 days, the Sri Lanka rupee would further depreciate against the US dollar.

Alagiyawanna said that sugar prices are currently trading in the market between Rs. 210 and Rs. 220 per kilogramme, while the Government will take steps to sell 1 kg of brown sugar at Rs. 130 through Lanka Sathosa outlets.

He further said the State Ministry has worked closely with the CAA to increase the fine for selling goods above the control price from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 100,000 or a six-month imprisonment, which will soon be made a law following the approval of Parliament.

Lanka Sugar Company (Pvt.) Ltd. is the only state sugar manufacturer, but it is unable to meet the sugar requirement of the country.