Sri Lanka hopeful of Indian help to overcome rice crisis

May 8th, 2008 - 7:52 pm ICT by admin  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, May 8 (IANS) Sri Lanka has expressed hope that neighbour India would relax its decision not to export non-basmati rice and thus rescue the island nation from a looming rice crisis. “If there is severe rice shortage in Sri Lanka, India would definitely offer its assistance. India has 2.5 million tonnes of rice in their stores now and helping Sri Lanka in this regard will not be a problem for them at all,” R.A.D Ratnayake, secretary to the ministry of commerce and consumer affairs, said Thursday.

Sri Lanka is desperately seeking outside assistance to rescue itself from a possible rice crisis with efforts to import at least 100,000 tonnes of rice from Myanmar being badly hit due to Cyclone Nargis.

Ratnayake told IANS that three ships were loaded with 17,000 tonnes of rice but were unable to sail to Sri Lanka with the particular port being closed after the national disaster.

“Due to the cyclone, about 23 small ships sank in the port area, blocking the pathway from the harbour to the sea. We are in touch with authorities in Myanmar in this regard,” Ratnayake said.

Although India has decided not to export non-basmati rice, Ratnayake said Sri Lankan authorities were holding “very fruitful discussions with India on rice export”.

“The discussion we are having with India in this regard is different to what is appearing in news media. Right now there is no rice crisis in Sri Lanka. India will help us if real need arises. India also told us that they will reconsider their policy decision within the next two months,” Ratnayake said.

Ratnayake also played down media reports that Sri Lanka is turning to Thailand to meet its requirement for rice.

“Anybody can get rice from Thailand, but they are selling at a very high rate. Who will buy from them? Although our people are talking about various options, no decision has been taken to import rice from Thailand,” Ratnayake said.

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