Sri Lanka’s Paddy Marketing Board to Issue 10,000 Tons of Rice a Month to ‘Destroy’ Monopoly

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) plans to distribute 10,000 metric tons of rice to the market each month, with the PMB directly involved in the distribution process in a bid to destroy a powerful rice monopoly, says Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera.

Amaraweera told reporters on June 16 that the ministry had ordered the PMB to convert stored paddy stocks into rice with immediate effect and increase the amount of rice distributed to the market.

“We have issued a directive to convert the paddy into rice and send it to market as soon as possible,” Amaraweera said.

The PMB typically issues around 500 to 1,000 MT per month, he said.

“We have ordered this to be increased to a minimum of 10,000 MT per month. Sathosa (the state-run distribution chain), cooperatives and supermarkets will get the rice they have requested,” a- he declared.

Amarweera said the PMB would be directly involved in the process to try to “destroy the rice monopoly” in the market.

“We believe that if there is a shortage of rice in any part of the country, it will be alleviated when we start giving 10 times more than what we distributed to the market, in the coming days,” said Amaraweera.

Sri Lanka faces a looming food crisis as farmers were unable to produce adequate food after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa banned inorganic fertilizers during the last growing season. Input shortages this year have also hurt the sector.

Inflation from the collapse of the currency after two years of money printing has boosted both domestically produced food and imports.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said a food shortage was imminent from August. He has already had discussions about getting help from the World Food Program to prevent a food crisis.

Due to panic buying by the general public, the market is currently facing a shortage of rice.

However, Amaraweera said, the number of hectares under cultivation is higher than the estimated amount for the season.

“We estimate that only around 275,000 hectares will be cultivated for the ‘Yala’ season. When I got the ministry about two weeks ago, only about 248,000 hectares were under cultivation. But to date, we have cultivated 470,000 hectares. It has more than doubled in the past two weeks. So there will be no shortage of rice in the country,” he said.

The minister said there will be a shortage by the end of the year, but it will be managed with the production of the ‘Maha’ season arriving in February. (Colombo/Jun 16/2022)