India requested to allow rice exports to Sri Lanka

April 3rd, 2008 - 6:13 pm ICT by admin  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 3 (IANS) Hit by soaring prices of rice, the Sri Lanka government has requested New Delhi to exempt the island nation from its recent curbs, including hike in rice export duties. “President Mahinda Rajapaksa is directly speaking to the governments of India, Pakistan and Burma, with the aim of importing rice from these countries. We hope there would be a positive outcome,” Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Bandula Gunawardena told IANS Thursday.

He said that immediate import of rice from these countries would help ensure availability of rice at a reasonable rate in the local market, especially on the eve of the Sinhala-Tamil New Year.

Sri Lanka has always looked to India whenever it faced a rice crisis in the local market, but it has been badly hit with the Indian government banning the exports of non-basmati rice.

A top Indian diplomatic official confirmed the request made by Colombo and said it has been passed on to New Delhi for consideration.

Gunawardena said that Myanmar has agreed to sell 100,000 metric tonnes of white rice to Sri Lanka.

“I am leading a delegation to Burma on Friday to finalise this deal,” Gunawardena said, adding that the Pakistani government has also agreed in principle to export 50,000 metric tonnes of rice to Sri Lanka.

“With these two countries conceding our request, we hope that neighbouring India would also consider our request positively,” he said.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Ministry sources said there was an artificial shortage of rice in the local market due to hoarding and the unfavourable weather that has hindered the milling of rice.

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