Trade Ministry blames imports for soaring prices

  • Rules out imposing price controls on essentials

BY Dinitha Rathnayake

The Trade Ministry has blamed skyrocketing prices of essential items, including food, on import dependency and having to, as a result, deal with world market prices.

Responding to skyrocketing prices of essential food items, Trade Ministry Secretary Bhadranie Jayawardhana, speaking to The Morning, said that the reason behind the rapid increase in prices of the same is the influence of world market prices.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation, most of the prices of essential goods have increased, especially of dry fish, dhal, onions, and sugar. As a country, we are dependent on imports, and therefore, we have to deal with the world market prices. We need to therefore understand this special situation,” she added.

When queried about having a price control on essential foods, Jayawardhana claimed that this would lead to a black market.

“Some people try to hide their stocks when we impose a controlled price. This has already occurred in the sugar market at the moment and the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) will raid these places during the coming days.”
Turmeric prices also have increased massively in the market where 100 grams of turmeric are being sold at Rs. 1,140. Jayawardhana noted that this price increase is due to the local production of turmeric and farmers having a good price for turmeric at the moment.

“We cannot control the turmeric price at this moment since it is not imported and I also don’t think that the turmeric price matters since people are considering only the prices of essential food items.”
Meanwhile, the retail price of a kilo of sugar is currently over Rs. 200.

Sri Lanka’s annual sugar consumption is around 50 million metric tonnes (MT). However, only 100 MT of brown sugar is manufactured in the country to meet this demand with the deficit being imported. The Government itself has conceded that the control of sugar imports is divided among 12 business entities.

On 13 October 2020, these businesses gained an advantage when the Government decided to drop the import tax per kilo of sugar from Rs. 50 to Rs. 25 cents.