Food prices increase further after festive season

By Malik Gunatilleke

Following the steep price increases in food items which came along with the Christmas and New Year season, consumers were burdened with further price hikes within the last week.

Many common food items have seen steep price increases in the last week despite the end of the Christmas season when traditionally a decrease in food prices is seen. While the price of petrol was reduced by Rs.15 per litre and Laugfs gas by Rs. 60 per cylinder, prices of commonly used food items have been on the rise for a few months.

Prices of items such as beans, cabbage and carrots have all increased by Rs.20 per kilo within a week while the price of tomatoes has risen by Rs. 50 to a retail price of Rs. 140 per kilo. The price of a kilo of tomatoes was just Rs.60 and has now more than doubled in price. Vegetables such as snake gourd and brinjals have also seen price increases of around Rs.10 within the week. A coconut has increased in price by a further Rs. 2 within the last week.

Despite the Government’s efforts, a few months back, to artificially control the maximum wholesale and retail prices of ten mentioned food items, little has been achieved in curtailing the price increases which have affected even some of these items.

Dhal is still selling at a retail price of Rs.170 per kilo despite the Government claiming that it will be brought down to Rs.149 per kilo while red onions are priced at Rs. 160 per kilo, almost double the stipulated Rs. 86 per kilo maximum retail price. Potatoes are priced just under Rs. 130 per kilo in most food stalls against the Rs. 75 per kilo retail price set by the Government. It is only in the 131 Laksathosa outlets that food items are available at the Government stipulated retail prices.

The price of samba rice has also soared over the past few weeks to Rs. 92 per kilo against the retail price of Rs. 73 set just a month back while kekulu rice has increased in price to Rs. 75 per kilo - a Rs. 10 increase since last week. This is all in the midst of a shortage of good quality rice in the market as traders complain that low quality rice from Pakistan which was described by some traders as ‘inedible’ has flooded the market while the alternative for consumers is the more expensive basmathi rice.

Despite the Government’s promise to import rice to combat a possible rice shortage in the market during the festive season, traders and importers say that none of the promised imports have entered the market.

K.P. Sundaram, president of the Old Moor Street Traders Association said that some of the mill owners were keeping their stocks hidden to create a shortage situation.

Mr. Sundaram added that the situation was further aggravated by the delay in local production due to unfavourable weather conditions in certain areas. He said that the situation may improve some time later this month once the domestic rice stocks enter the market.

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