Written by Pavani Hapuarachchi
20 Apr, 2021 | 1:32 pm
COLOMBO (News 1st): The Opposition on Tuesday (Apr. 20), alleged in Parliament that the incumbent government has failed to control the prices of rice in the local market, resulting in a situation where rice traders have resorted to challenging the government.
“Regardless of what anyone says, the incumbent government as well as the previous governments failed to control the prices of rice,” alleged MP Hesha Vithanage of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya.
Whilst referring to a media report, MP Vithanage pointed out that one of the leading rice traders who is creating a rice mafia in the country threatened on television that the government cannot control the rice prices adding that the Minister of Agriculture has no upper hand.
Thereby, SJB MP Hesha Vithanage questioned the government’s future plans in this regard.
Responding to the allegations, Minister of Trade, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena said the most convenient way to control the prices of rice is to import rice stocks from the global market at lower prices and distribute them in the local market, just as the previous government did.
“Any mafia can be controlled in this manner. However, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa does not permit us to resort to this policy. He does not allow us to import rice from overseas. If we are granted permission to import rice stocks we could easily control the prices of rice,” Minister Dr. Gunawadena pointed out.
He further informed parliament that the prices of Nadu, Samba, and Kekulu rice were controlled at below Rs. 100, during the festive season, whilst adding that only the price of Keeri Samba could not be controlled.
“With regard to secure stocks of rice, in the future, we hope to maintain government stocks and distribute the rice through Sathosa and Cooperative outlets. This requires a certain period of time. By the next harvest season we will provide a definite solution to this issue,” Minister Dr. Gunawadena elaborated.
In response to Minister Gunawardena’s explanation, SJB MP Hesha Vithanage appreciated the decision by the President to NOT permit the importation of rice; “The benefits of that decision will be reaped by the farmers in Hambantota, Polonnaruwa and other areas with the increase of prices of paddy,” he noted.
“However, the issue is that rice traders are threatening and challenging the government that the prices of rice cannot be controlled, claiming that they hold the authority over it,” MP Hesha Vithanage emphasized; and questioned as to what message is delivered to the consumers as a result?
Responding to this, Minister of Trade, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena assured that the government is not under any kind of threat.
“The Minister of Agriculture has successfully conducted the purchasing process in a competitive manner. Today, the Agriculture Ministry is providing rice stocks to Sathosa and Cooperative outlets,” the Trade Minister noted.
He once again reiterated that a solution will be provided to this issue as soon as possible.
“We are not a government that will kneel in fear of any state or private institution. We will do the needful,” Minister of Trade, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena informed the House.
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