Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan gov't allows private trade to import rice owing to shortage

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COLOMBO, Dec 24, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The Sri Lankan government has allowed private trade to import rice as means to tide over a market shortage, Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena said Thursday.

The rice mill owners in the main rice producing region of Polonnaruwa in the north central province have reported shortages of rice, the staple food in the country.

However, Gunawardena claimed that the shortage was artificially created with the aim to politically embarrass the government in view of next month's presidential election.

Consumers said the retail owners have limited the issues to just 2 kg per person.

"We have reduced the customs duties on rice imported since last week to encourage imports", Gunawardena said.

He said that the bulk of the imports would come from Pakistan, Vietnam and Myanmar.

The authorities said that the rice harvest was affected by lack of rain fall.