The government announced emergency regulations on Monday empowering authorities to seize stocks of staples and sell them at guaranteed prices
Sri Lanka's government has started seizing stocks of sugar and rice from warehouses and will release them on the open market at regulated prices from Thursday as part of emergency measures to stop hoarding, a senior minister said.
The government announced emergency regulations on Monday empowering authorities to seize stocks of staples and sell them at guaranteed prices, or based on customs value of imported goods, to prevent market irregularities causing inconvenience for consumers, it said.
State Minister for Coperative Services Lasantha Alagiyawanna told the media on Wednesday the government would from Thursday set maximum retail prices for rice and sugar.
"The government conducted over 1,000 raids during the past couple of weeks to seize stashed stocks from warehouses around the country," he said.
Imports of agricultural products, food and beverages accounted for more than 7% of total imports in 2019.
But since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic the island nation has put restrictions on imports of most non-essentials and also on some agricultural items to reduce spending on imports.
The Sri Lankan rupee has fallen 7.5% this year while foreign exchange reserves have plummeted to $2.8 billion as of the end of July versus $7.5 billion in November 2019.
The government, which is also facing a massive debt repayment crisis, has sought to calm worries about food shortages. Ajith Nivard Cabraal, state minister of money and capital markets, said on Twitter on Thursday there were no shortages.
The government said in a release late on Wednesday there were reports of traders hoarding essential food items such as paddy, rice and sugar in large quantities with the intention of selling at higher prices.
The seizure of stocks was being done to defeat those criminal efforts and, as a result, attempts to create an artificial food shortage had been defeated, the government said.