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DateLine Sunday, 23 March 2008

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Joint effort vital to control prices of essential items

A joint effort should be made by the public and the private sector to control the rising prices of essential items, said Trade, Marketing Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Services Minister Bandula Gunawardene.

He said that a meeting will be held next week attended by finance, agriculture, trade, ministry representatives, public and private sector rice millers, importers, producers and traders to set up a permanent price scheme for essential items for the New Year season.

The Minister said that the present trend is buy paddy from rice millers and businessmen at high rates than the government price to sell at big profit margins. Most of the rice producing countries including Vietnam, Burma and Thailand banned the export of rice and Pakistan and India export only high quality rice. Under these circumstances an agreement on prices of essential items is vital, he said.

He said that he has advocated the reduction of the coconut and vegetable oil import tax as an urgent remedy to counter the country's coconut scarcity which has caused an increase in coconut prices.

The Minister said that there are sufficient stocks of essential items such as milk powder, sugar, onion, and dhal at Sathosa and State import agencies.The government will import milk powder and cement at low prices than the present market prices before May as agreed by suppliers, he said.

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