(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –The government is intervening to manage the currently volatile rice market by buying up surplus paddy stocks in the Maha cultivation season of 2019/2020. This is to encourage the private sector paddy millers to purchase paddy under a fair price thus ensuring a fixed price for paddy, Co-Cabinet Media Spokesman Information and Communications Technology, Higher Education, Technology and Innovations Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena announced yesterday. Addressing the weekly Cabinet media briefing at the Government Information Department yesterday, Minister Dr. Gunawardane said the harvesting of paddy for the Maha cultivation season 2019/20 has already begun and a harvest of three million metric tons of paddy harvest is expected.
“Although a slight hike of prices of rice can be seen, as a result of the policy decision taken by the government to stop the importation of rice, the government has been able to save approximately 100 million US dollars in foreign exchange,” the Minister said.
He further said that the circumstances have resulted in the strengthening foreign exchange as well as a decline in interest rates.
The Cabinet of Ministers yesterday further decided to implement several other measures pertaining to the rice market without delay. They include:-
•a minimum certified price of Rs.50 for kilo of paddy with the required quality standard (subject to the criterion of moisture). Minimum certified price of a kilo of paddy with moisture to be certified as Rs. 45
•to purchase rice through District Secretaries as well as the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) ;
•direct purchase of consignments of rice required for government institutions such as the Security Forces, Department of Prisons, Hospitals etc from the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) itself ;
•immediately assign all store houses and warehouses under the purview of the Food Commission for the storage of paddy stocks ;
•loans amounting to approximately Rs.100 billion have also been allocated under a concessionary loan interest rate of 8% for rice purchasers including small, medium scale as well as large scale millers for the purchase of paddy under the certified price ;
•to entrust the monitoring of the paddy purchasing programme in the key producing districts of Polonnaruva, Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, Vavuniya, Ampara, Batticaloa, Monaragala and Hambantota to several state ministers.
Circulars required to implement the above programmes have been issued by the Secretary to the President.