During a discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat on February 16th, President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that an International Monetary Fund (IMF) EFF loan is expected to be received in March. The President also mentioned that the possibility of reducing bank interest rates is being considered in line with the gradual drop of inflation rate.
The discussion was aimed at identifying the issues faced by small and large-scale rice mill owners and finding solutions to resolve them. The rice mill owners brought up the fact that the production cost of a kilogram of rice has increased due to various factors, including the rise in fuel prices, electricity charges, machinery maintenance costs, transportation costs, and all other production and administrative expenses. They noted that they would incur losses by selling their product at the current market price as it is lower than the production cost.
The rice mill owners also pointed out the difficulty of paying a high interest rate of 28% on bank loans taken to purchase paddy. It was mentioned that the production cost of a kilogram of paddy has increased due to the rapid increase in prices of the agricultural inputs for paddy cultivation. Farmers have had to pay a high interest rate on bank loans they had taken for cultivation.
As a result, the rice mill owners demanded relief for the rice industry, which has reached a difficult stage to maintain operations due to the increase in production costs for both cultivation and rice mills. The President acknowledged their concerns and stated that it was the government’s expectation to provide all possible relief to consumers as well as farmers.
The President instructed officials to seek means of increasing paddy production by reducing production costs and finding solutions to the problems faced by rice mill owners without delay. The discussion ended with the President’s assurance to work towards finding a solution to the issues faced by the rice industry.
President’s Secretary Mr. Saman Ekanayake, President’s Senior Adviser on Economic Affairs Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga, Presidential Adviser on Food Security Dr. Suren Batagoda, government officials and representatives of small and large scale rice mills including Mr. Dudley Sirisena attended the discussion.