By Shezna Shums
President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday held discussions with the Pettah Traders’ Association and food importing companies regarding the current food fears in the country and how the stability of food prices could be maintained.President Rajapaksa said that traders and importers should keep the wellbeing of the consumers in mind and maintain price stability during this period. He also advised on the need to keep the cost of living low to safeguard the public.
The President also stated that under normal circumstances a buffer stock of food and dry rations enough for three months is maintained by traders, and advised on the need to make this stock available to the public now because of the difficult situation.
He gave an assurance to the traders and importers of his assistance and support to rebuild their stock by acquiring new stocks. The President also told the traders and importers to always have excess food stocks and dry rations enough to last at least for three months in the future so that in times disaster as at present or in case of a sudden increase of world food prices there would not be an immediate shortage of food in the country.
Pettah wholesale traders, milk powder importers, food and dry ration importers and other food importers were all present and had fruitful discussions direct with the President. The President of the Pettah Wholesale Traders’ Association Nihal Seneviratne who was also present at the discussion, speaking to the DFT said the President was keen to know whether there was a shortage of food and other essential items in the market and whether there were enough stocks for the upcoming festive season.
The Minister of Cooperatives and Internal Trade, Johnston Fernando and Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Planning Dr. P.B. Jayasundera also attended this discussion.
Further raids on hoarders and black marketers
The Ministry of Cooperatives and Internal Trade will obtain the assistance of the Criminal Investigation Department to carry out raids on shops that are overpricing rice or hoarding rice stocks to create a shortage and thus an artificial price increase.
Over 200 shops have been raided by the Consumer Affairs Authority in their move to stop traders from selling rice over the ceiling price.
Last Wednesday (9) the CAA raided 107 shops and on Thursday (10) a total of 100 shops were raided; and the CAA is carrying out daily raids in their move to stop traders from cheating the public.
Amidst fears of rising rice prices the Ministry of Cooperatives and Internal Trade has ordered the release of 25,000 metric tonnes of rice to the market.
The Paddy Marketing Board has its buffer stock of which, a portion will be milled and released to the market. This stock of rice will be available island wide.
Earlier this week the CAA issued a notice that all shops and traders dealing in rice should not increase the retail price of rice nor should they hoard rice for issue on a later date. Traders who over price their stocks or are found to be hoarding their stocks will be fined by the CAA, which comes under the Ministry of Cooperatives and Internal Trade.
The price of a kilo of Samba is Rs. 70 and a kilo of Nadu, Red raw rice and White raw rice all cost Rs. 60 in the market stated the CAA.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Agriculture is planning to carry out a national programme to educate the public on the food crises the country may face in the future.
The Ministry of Agriculture stated that a part of the vegetables and fruits are damaged when they are packed in gunny bags and transported or stored.
The Ministry will be distributing plastic boxes to farmers and traders in Matara today and in Koswatte on Tuesday (15).
The Ministry will be highlighting the fact that by using plastic or hard boxes to store and transport vegetables and fruits that there will be less wastage of the fresh produce, which in turn will help the country to overcome any food shortage.(SS)