Hatching? ..............and seeing is believing!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010 00:51 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Cooperatives and Internal Trade Minister Johnston Fernando (right) discuss a thorny issue with Ministry Secretary Sunil Sirisena (centre) and Consumer Affairs Authority Chairman Rumy Marzook during the media conference yesterday on chicken and egg imports

Under fire Johnny finally delivers

Imported chicks and eggs arrive and now availableat Lak Sathosa outlets

By Shezna Shums

Imported chicken will be distributed to Lak Sathosa outlets and other shops today, to be sold at Rs. 350 a kilo, while the stock of two million eggs were distributed to Lak Sathosa outlets yesterday to be sold at a wholesale rate of Rs. 11 per egg and a retail rate of Rs. 12 per egg.

Cooperatives and Internal Trade Minister Johnston Fernando told journalists yesterday that these items could even be sold at a lesser cost, but that it would not be done in order to protect local industries.

According to the Ministry, this year four items have seen an increase in prices – eggs, chicken, coconuts and onions – whilst the cost of other food items has remained the same.

The Government intends to import chickens and eggs on a weekly basis when the local market is unable to meet the demand, whilst keeping costs the same.

The cost of the total 2,500 metric tonnes of chicken and 50 million eggs will only be determined after the entire stock has been brought to Sri Lanka.

“We will stop bringing down these items when we find the local industry can sufficiently supply the demand,” said Minister Fernando.

The chicken and eggs were bought from the same supplier from Kerala, India, and the delay in offloading these items was due to quarantine clearance documents having to be sent from India, after which Sri Lanka had to provide its health approval on the consignment.

Minister Fernando argued that All Island Poultry Association President Dr. D. Wanasinghe’s claims of having adequate chicken stocks were not true.

Fernando also assured that the eggs and chicken imported to the market would be of high standard.

He charged that there was an attempt by some groups to oppose the Government’s moves to import chicken and eggs.

The Minister added that the association was well aware of the Government’s decision since August to bring down 2,500 metric tonnes of chicken during the month of December, which was stated at a meeting with Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera.

Meanwhile, there was a shortage of big onions in the market especially during Christmas and owing to torrential rains damaging a number of onion crops in the country, along with the fact that India had temporarily halted the export of big onions.

“Within the next few days we will be getting big onions from Pakistan,” the Minister said.

The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) is now carrying out raids and will be fining shops that are hoarding these items.

With regard to coconuts, the Ministry intends to import five million nuts from Kerala to help curtail the spiralling coconut prices.

“Other than these items, prices of food items like rice and dhal have remained the same since last year,” the Minister added. “There is an adequate supply of rice in the market as well.”

The Ministry is looking at creating a cooperative society consisting of 1,187 private poultry farmers, where assistance by way of poultry feed and disease control will be provided to help rear chicken.

Statistics indicate the annual poultry supply stands at 7,250 metric tonnes while the demand in Sri Lanka is 9,000 to 11,000 metric tonnes annually.

Currently there are reports of a shortage of vegetables in the market owing to lorries not operating, but this problem will be sorted out within the next few days, the Minister asserted.