Tough action against those hoarding rice
Sri Lanka known as the Granary of the East is facing a shortage of
rice which has made prices to skyrocket. The crisis has resulted in the
importation of of rice by private sector merchants who determine the
prices. Minister of Agriculture Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that the
Government is not importing rice as there are adequate stocks in the
country. The Maha season cultivation has begun and there would be
sufficient rice when the yield is harvested.
“We will take steps against those hoarding stocks to jack up prices
artificially and ensure there is adequate stock in the market,” the
Today, rice prices have reached almost Rs. 100 a kilogram. The price
of a kilogram of Nadu and Red Rice which was around Rs. 70, a few months
ago has shot up to over Rs. 90. Grocery owners said that there is a
scarcity of ordinary varieties of rice and added that the price of
hybrid varieties range from around Rs. 120 to Rs. 200 a kilogram.
Shop owners said if the Government provides machinery to small-scale
farmers at concessionary rates to mill rice, the problem could be solved
to a great extent. Large-scale rice mill owners dominate the sector
resulting in rice prices soaring.
Rice mill owners said that the present shortage of rice is due to
lack of precautionary measures taken to face adverse weather conditions.
They said adequate stocks should be stored by the government to keep
a tab on prices.
The small and medium scale mill owners said that they are unable to
sustain business and are forced to close down the mills. Many small
scale mill owners have shut down operations due to unfair trade
The Consumer Affairs Authority has nabbed traders selling rice above
the controlled price. Rice at many retail outlets are sold above the
The long drought has been blamed for the shortage of rice causing
prices to rise.
Agriculture sector experts said that far-sighted vision and planning
to control the impact of climate change is vital to sustain agricultural
produce and save the drain of foreign exchange on import of food.
Minister Abeywardena said that except for Batticaloa which is still
facing drought, the produce from other areas are being purchased and
released to the market.
International Foodstuff Group of Companies Chairman and Advisor to
the Ministry of Agriculture, Sarath de Silva said that steps should be
taken to explore other areas to produce rice. We should go beyond the
traditional areas of paddy cultivation such as the North Western, North
Central and the Eastern provinces and explore other areas which could be
brought under the plough.
“There should be a national policy to promote the cultivation of
hybrid varieties which could withstand adverse weather and increase the
yield. High yielding varieties should be cultivated to overcome
shortages and price increases,” he said.
de Silva said that we need to tap reservoirs in the highlands to
increase paddy cultivation. There is ample land in the Uva highlands and
Central province, Ginigathhena and Nawalapitiya and abandoned land in
the Western province should be brought under cultivation. If there is
drought or excessive rain in certain areas produce from other areas
could off set the shortage.
Rice occupies around 34 percent (0.77 million ha) of cultivated land
in the country. Around 560,000 ha are cultivated during the Maha and
310,000 ha during the Yala season, making the average annual extent sown
to around 870,000 ha. About 1.8 million farmer families are engaged in
paddy cultivation. Sri Lanka produces 2.7 million tonnes of rice
annually and meets around 95 percent of domestic needs.
The per capita consumption of rice fluctuates at around 100 kg per
year depending on the price of rice, bread and wheat flour. Agriculture
experts estimate that the demand for rice will increase at around 1.1%
per year and to meet this demand production should grow at the rate of
2.9 % per year. Increasing the cropping intensity and national average
yield are the options available to achieve these targets.
While the global demand for rice will increase at 1.95%, production
will increase at 1.62% per annum doubling the tradeable rice volume in
another 20 years time. As a result rice prices would decline at 0.73%
On the other hand, the domestic price of rice which is on a par with
Thai A1 super (the cheapest in the world market) would be higher by US $
50-70 per ton than the internationally traded rice. This situation will
place Sri Lanka under increasing pressure to produce cheaper, high
quality rice in the coming years.