The rice tranche immediately sought by Sri Lanka from abroad is 100,000 MT. Meanwhile, local rice millers are also identified as being responsible for the supply shortages in the market.
"The Cost of Living Committee gave an order for us to import 100,000 MT through state sector" said the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 29 June. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing a press briefing at Ministry of Industry and Commerce on the forthcoming International Coop Day event to be held in Kurunegala on Saturday July 1 when he stated this.
"The recent plastic rice conspiracy was promoted by an anti-Muslim lobby trying to link me as a Muslim to Pakistan. We have lodged a complaint" said Minister Bathiudeen and added: "We imported 300,000 MT rice so far through private sector and the government did not go for importing until now. There is a rice shortage due to rains at present. And the paddy buffer stock has also fallen to 50000 MT and rice buffer stock needs to be built. Also after we Gazetted the Maximum Retail Prices (MRPs), some local rice millers, seeing the low prices bought large stocks and stored them so that they can sell at a higher rate later, adding to the current rice shortage. The Cost of Living Committee gave an order for us to import 100,000 MT through state sector as a result. I discussed with diplomats of Indonesia, Thailand and Pakistan –also with Vietnam and Bangladesh for this 100,000 MT rice. We will bring down 100,000 MT from one them after selections. Our imported rice too are subjected to lab tests for quality. As for coconuts, even though coconut prices are high now there is no decision to import as of now and a decision will be made at next Tuesday's Cabinet meeting on this."
On 22 June, Minister Bathiudeen, on the directive of HE President Maithripala Sirisena and in a Government to Government call, opened talks with Ambassadors/reps from Thailand, Indonesia and Pakistan to procure the rice tranche to stabilize the domestic market. "We are looking for par-boiled (Nadu) and Samba categories" he said and added: "After one of your countries are picked as the supplier of this volume, based on a transparent international procurement process, our expert team consisting of my officials, food technologists, and rice experts will arrive in your country to inspect and certify the entire stock before it would be shipped to Colombo. Even if Sri Lanka would choose one of you as the supplier in this case and leave the others, we are still eagerly looking forward to enhance bilateral trade with all of you-in many other ways.
The Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) under Minister Bathiudeen has commenced the process of securing rice samples from these countries.