President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has directed Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) that immediate steps be taken to enforce the declared Maximum Retail Prices (MRPs) and ensure uninterrupted market supply of essential goods during this festive season which times consumers are vulnerable to market manipulation. Recently, the Authority has gazetted a MRP on rice at Rs. 98/kg. This decision was arrived at by the Cabinet of Ministers having consulted the major suppliers and verified stock positions in the country.
Major millers agreed that they will mark this price at their rice packets and ensure their retail distribution network will sell such rice at this price. However, there are complaints that this is not complied with in several places. Therefore, the CAA is instructed to check the market supply situation to deploy a team to check the stock and daily releases at rice milling supply stations. The CAA should also initiate immediate actions to check the rice suppliers at Pettah and other major markets.
Further, rice millers and traders should appreciate that the government is making its best endeavors to develop the rice industry and it is the responsibility of the millers and traders to ensure supply conditions in the market without compelling undue import of rice or other form of government interventions to the market operations. Since 2019-2020 Maha cultivation Season has begun and the harvest is expected from late January 2020, the farmers must be given maximum comfort to expand their cultivation while consumers are given the opportunity to have affordable prices at this festive season. There is no reason to fear supply shortages.
The government has also relaxed the restriction on import of wheat flour with a view to promote market competition and availability of wheat flour at affordable prices particularly in support of urban and plantation working community during this season.
The government has already reduced VAT rate from 15 percent to 8 percent, removed 2 percent NBT and several other indirect taxes with a view to reduce the high cost-of-living on the one hand and to create business friendly environment to promote supply activities in the country on the other. Rice millers and traders will also benefit from the removal of Economic Service Charge (ESC) and concessions announced by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
However, observations have been made that prices of some commodities have not come down satisfactorily. Prices of all food items, cosmetics, building materials and many other items must reflect corresponding price reduction. Therefore, CAA have been instructed to summon all sector groups involving supplying such commodities and request them to pass down this benefit to the consumers and also to communicate to the market effectively on a regular basis.