Essential food items: Sathosa stocks insufficient?

By Maneesha Dullewe

Consumers are complaining that State retailer Sathosa shelves are not stocking the recently-introduced “Special Relief Goods Package”, which Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardana initiated last month.

On 18 December, Minister Gunawardana initiated the launch of a special relief package of goods through Sathosa at a rate of Rs. 1,988 to the people, which he claimed would also be delivered directly to homes.

It was stated that the special relief pack would include 10 kilogrammes (kg) of samba rice, 2 kg of brown sugar, one packet of noodles, a 100 g packet of tea, 250 g of sprats, 400 g of salt, two bars of soap, and one packet of papadam. During the launch, the Trade Minister noted that this would help eliminate the concern that these items were unavailable at Sathosa.

However, customers The Sunday Morning spoke to said there was little evidence of these relief packages at the retailer. The announcement of the package saw many people visiting Sathosa stores across the island but they had been unable to purchase  said packages due to the unavailability of essential items.

Commenting on the alleged stock shortages at Sathosa, Trade Ministry Secretary Bhadranie Jayawardhana told The Sunday Morning: “We source supplies from local manufacturers and direct importers for Sathosa, since purchasing from intermediaries drives up prices. Therefore, the prices at Sathosa are undoubtedly lower. Since prices are lower, we offer products that people will require for consumption during a week or two. For example, for Rs. 1,899 we offer 10 kinds of commodities including 10 kg of rice. As such, the sale of these packages has increased, meaning customers have increased. Therefore, we have had to stock higher quantities than usual. But sometimes there will be a shortage. Our costs are honestly lower than at other trade institutions. For instance, if a kg of sprats is Rs. 500 at Sathosa, at other outlets it will be Rs. 800. This leads to a rapid escalation in the sale of sprats.”

She added that the promised concessions were available at all Sathosa outlets and that consumers could either get these delivered or obtain them at the outlets itself.

Government’s relief attempts

As part of Government measures to assuage the cost of living by providing relief measures for essential commodities available in the market, the Ministry of Finance last Friday (30 December) announced that the Special Commodity Levy on imported potatoes and big onions would be reduced with effect from midnight Friday.

Accordingly, the levy has been reduced by Rs. 30 per kg.

The decision to reduce prices was made on the instructions of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and with the approval of Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa.

Accordingly, the Central Bank Daily Price Report for 31 December recorded the price of imported potatoes and big onions in the Pettah market as follows:

Wholesale price (Rs.)Retail price (Rs.)
Big onion (Imp)172.00217.00
Potato (Imp) 176.00180.00