Regulations on drug prices, milk powder stocks from 2014

Friday, 13 December 2013 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Ashwin Hemmathagama - Our Lobby Correspondent The Government will establish regulations on pharmaceuticals pricing  and monitor the milk powder stocks held with distributors from January next year, Minister of Trade and Cooperatives Johnston Fernando confirmed yesterday in Parliament, responding to Opposition lawmakers. According to Minister Fernando, the price control which is considered a key responsibility of the Ministry of Trade and Cooperatives will help maintain price stability and eradicate scarcity. “During the past three years, the samba rice price fluctuated between Rs. 68 and Rs. 70, nadu rice between Rs. 58 and Rs. 60, and white raw rice between Rs. 52 and Rs. 59. But we offered samba at Rs. 65, nadu at Rs. 55, and white raw rice for Rs. 49 at Lak Sathosa,” he said. “Taxes are imposed to protect the local producers. Take coriander, for example. The tax is less on coriander seeds compared to coriander powder. This is a measure taken to protect the local millers. The Rs. 30 tax reduction on potatoes and the Rs. 25 reduction on B-onions are similar steps. But we have also enforced a tax of Rs. 3 for sugar imports. Local sugar production has increased. “In 2005 we established Lak Sathosa with the first outlet opened in Negombo. Now the Lak Sathosa chain has 287 branches island-wide. The monthly turnover of Lak Sathosa comes to Rs. 2.6 billion. If Lak Sathosa can offer goods at a lesser price and still report a high turnover and earn a considerable profit, why can’t the cooperatives follow the same and give at less?” he queried. Commenting on the milk powder scarcity, the Minister stated that a gazette notification would be issued notifying the milk powder importers to register the warehouses. “There is no milk powder scarcity, but there was a request received seeking a price increase. So, as soon as we received such request, the stockholders hide the milk powder. With the new regulations, the milk powder companies should register all warehouses at the Consumer Affairs Authority and we will monitor the stock movement. A new gazette will be issued soon, enabling the Authority to inspect any warehouse around the clock and to check the holding stock,” said Minister Fernando. “We have a plan to take goods to the village through private agents and their buddy-sized vehicles. This will help the consumer to save money on travelling and transport. We also intend to develop the cooperative hospitals. We have no plans of giving it to the private sector, so a physician is also recruited to oversee the project. The price control laws were abolished during the UNP regime. Now this has become an issue with the price changing within a few hours. We are also in consideration to introduce price controls for medicines as well.” “According to the new law, the price has to be displayed. By next January the price control will be there on pharmaceuticals as well. We are also looking at establishing a special economic centre in Mullaitivu this year,” he added. Moving the debate last morning, MP Ajith Mannapperuma that stated the Government had failed to strengthen cooperative societies in the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ political manifesto. “The Government failed to support the cooperatives. Divi Neguma should have been used in this process. Casinos are the main focus of the Government. The values of cooperation no longer exist in cooperatives,” he said. DNA MP Sunil Handunnetti joining the debate identified the Ministry of Trade and Cooperative as the lynchpin of the economy. “Trade and cooperatives will be developed if you put the same efforts put into the elections held in the North West. Sathosa fell during the UNP regime. You were part of the UNP at that time. I suggest that you appoint MP Azwar to Sathosa to remove weevils and to chase out rats. At least it will prevent him interrupting the House. Sanasa is also in deep trouble. Depositors have lost their deposits and their pawned items. You have appointed Ariya Rubasinghe as an Additional Secretary to Cooperatives. He is redundant and on pension.”