Food importers seek relief | Sunday Observer

Food importers seek relief

The Essential Food and Commodity Importers and Traders Association is experiencing an unprecedented situation as debt has risen due to the recent security situation in the country, a spokesman for the Association said.

“We command over 85% of the total essential Food and Commodity imports to the country. Our presence in this sector has been long in tenor and equally significant in terms of contribution to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential foods in Sri Lanka,” he aid.

“Our business entirely lies and depends on the import and distribution of items such as rice, sugar, dhal, onions, potatoes, pulses, garlic, coriander, milk powder, chillies, canned fish and dry fish,” the spokesman said. They do represent the Cost of Living Index measurement and the cost of living ‘Food Basket’.

“During the past half a century or more, we have been in this trade and at all times conformed to the State policies. Many a time, we did suffer due to such policy initiatives by the successive Governments. These have been conveyed by us to the President and also to the Prime Minister in the past. As at now due to factors entirely beyond our control, we have become victims of a fall out due to the recent terrorist attack,” he said.

“At times, we have been dictated by the Government to maintain prices much below cost. At other times, we were requested to hold buffer stocks of some of the commodities such, as rice to prevent adverse market fluctuations. Most times we suffered the consequential effects in silence.

“Our financial situation has worsened severely due to the decisions on price formula and parity rate fluctuations on the forex rates. During the past three years, the Forex movement in the country had an unprecedented increase from Rs.130 to the US Dollar reaching a high of over Rs. 182 to the US Dollar. Our debts swelled as import values got further enhanced in the Rupee conversion against the progressive rise in the Parity Rate between the USD and that of the Sri Lankan Rupee.

“Any further tolerance of the burden in which we are currently placed may not be possible, as on one hand, our obligation by the State to meet the essential food demand in the country is affected while our own exposure to the issues confronting us financially threatens our own existence.

“We appeal to the authorities to provide relief by re-scheduling loans, moratorium on capital and interest on all existing debt for a period of one year and offering concessionary terms on working capital to meet imports and distribution costs,” the spokesman said.

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