A heated argument erupted between Araliya Holdings Chairman Dudley Sirisena and Ratna Rice Mills Chairman Mithrapala Lankeshwara when the latter said that he wanted a rice price revision at a press conference held in Colombo yesterday morning.
However Araliya Chairman insisted that rice millers and companies can make profits by issuing rice to the government at the certified price.
“Nobody is allowed to talk about a rice price increase here.You get up. You all are trying to increase the rice price. Not only you, other mill owners wanted a price increase. But I am not in that game”, he said.
Sirisena left the press conference saying that he does not want a price hike although other mill owners are trying to increase the price of rice.
He said that over the year’s rice mills and distributing sector had been making good profits and it’s time now for them and also his company to think about profit secondly and look at the welfare of the citizens of Sri Lanka who are crunched with escalating commodity prices. “We too should not act like Shylock’s at this time.”
He however said that the government must come out with a mechanism to eradicate around six ‘middlemen’ who get involved before the farmer and end merchant meets. “Firstly there is the merchant who goes to the field, purchases paddy, dries them and sells it to several other middlemen before it reaches us.”
“The winner in this rice business is the middlemen”. Sirisena also said that the government must re-invest more on storage facilities as one solution for this.
He also said that there is an adequate supply of rice in Sri Lanka for the next three months but warned that if fertilizer, pesticides and diesel is not provided to farmers and rice mills there is a looming threat of formation of ‘rice’ queues.