“THE PRICE OF RICE” – by Des Kelly
Definitely not nice, is the price of rice AND other foodstuff,
so very important for everyone in Sri Lanka to even exist.
It is almost impossible for anyone to share the sorry details of what is really happening there, at the moment, so, my thanks go out to Charley Schokman for sending out this true story. This will give e’Lankans everywhere, a chance to see how our homeland is struggling at the moment.
How do they survive?
Sunday Times, May 1, 2022
People fed up as essential food items soar in price by 200-500 percent
Essential goods have shot up in prices by 200-500 percent compared to the period when the present government took over in 2019, statistics reveal.
Rice, dhal and sprats are no longer affordable essential items. Dhal, which was sold at a price of around Rs. 145 a kilo in 2019 is now sold for about Rs. 515 in the retail market, a 353 percent increase.
As for the staple food of rice, almost all varieties have shot up to more than Rs. 200 a kilo.
Red raw rice is now sold for about Rs. 210 a kilo, while it was only Rs. 98 about three years ago. Red and white raw rice prices have increased by 215 and 213 percent. Samba prices have gone up from Rs. 106 in 2019 to between Rs. 220 and Rs. 260.
Healthy grains now lack a healthy price tag. A kilo of green gram sold for Rs. 287 at the time the government took over is now sold for Rs. 1007, a 350 percent increase. Chickpeas are now Rs. 591 a kilo, an increase from Rs. 227 three years ago. Cowpea too saw an increase from Rs. 270 to Rs. 700, a kilo.
Eggs, the most commonly used protein, have seen an increase from Rs. 17 an egg in 2019 to about Rs. 30 at present. Chicken, which was priced at about Rs. 450 is now nearing Rs. 1000. All types of meat and fish have seen 150-170 percent increase. Sprats were sold for about Rs. 750 a kilo in 2019 and are now sold for Rs. 1394.74, a 184 percent increase. The average price of bread now varies between Rs. 130 and Rs. 160, while it was Rs. 60 in 2019.
“Going to the market is something I now dread. The prices are so unpredictable. Two years ago, we had to spend about Rs. 5000 a week for essential items and vegetables. Now even Rs. 10,000 is not enough,” said Rani Subasinghe, from Nugegoda.
Wheat flour that was below Rs. 100 a kilo three years ago, is now nearing Rs. 250. Milk powder which was readily available on shelves three years ago at Rs. 370 for a 400g pack, is now both in short supply and what is available is sold for about Rs. 790. A litre of fresh milk is Rs. 360, now.
All spices, condiments and coconut oil have soared in price, with a kilo of dried chillies going up from about Rs. 335 three years ago to about Rs. 1590.
The people, are fed up of the recent increases in prices of essential items and fuel, and the recent cooking gas price hike. In 2019, a 12.5kg domestic gas cylinder that was sold for Rs. 1490, is now priced at Rs. 4,860, following the recent price increase of Rs. 2,675.
“This situation will worsen if the government fails to immediately step in. Importers and traders cannot continuously increase prices. There should be a price control,” said Prof. W. M. Semasinghe, Professor in Economics at the University of Kelaniya’s Department of Economics.
He said the price increases were severely affecting daily wage earners and those depending on a monthly salary.
“The sky rocketing cost of living is believed to be the main factor for the massive middle-class aragalaya or revolt at Galle Face and all over the country. Their income remains the same while the prices are going up at a rapid pace. People are fed up as they see that the government is failing to bring down the cost of living,” the economics professor said.
Prof. Semasinghe warned that the coming months will see both shortages and price increases in rice and vegetables.
“Farmers had stocks of fertiliser saved and stored during the previous paddy season. It was the same with vegetable farmers. However, they have no fertiliser now and the limited stocks are highly priced and most of them cannot afford it. The government should immediately find a solution to the fertiliser crisis,” he said.
On Friday, the Central Bank said headline inflation, as measured by the year-on-year change in the Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI) increased to 29.8 percent in April from 18.7 percent in March this year. Food inflation increased to 46.6 percent, while non-food inflation increased to 22 percent.
“Prices of items in the non-food category recorded increases mainly due to price increases in the transport (petrol and diesel), education (tuition fees), housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuel. Further, within the food category, increases were observed in prices of milk powder, rice, bread, dhal, sugar and dried fish during the month,” the Central Bank said in a statement.
The next meal gets pricier
The economic catastrophe that has engulfed the country continues. Prices of goods continue to skyrocket on a daily basis. Despite prices being high, severe shortages continue to prevail of essential items such as LP gas and milk powder.
The suffering of the public is immense. They wait for hours in lengthy queues for gas and go home disappointed. The price of almost every food item has gone up. Given people’s dire financial situation, many are purchasing even essential food items at reduced quantities, with parents going hungry to feed their children. Families are making do with two or even one meal a day.
The government has told people that essential items are available for less at Sathosa outlets. Yet consumers complain that many outlets don’t have any of the items advertised. Even items that are there are rationed, with restrictions imposed on just how much one could buy.
Many fear it will only get worse before it gets better.
Prices of 60 essential drugs increased again; this time by 40 percent
Prices of 60 drugs and medicines have been raised, for the second time in two months with effect from April 28 (Thursday), according to a gazette notification issued by the Health Ministry.
The 60 items in the gazetted category come under a ‘Maximum Retail Price’ (MRP) and their prices have been increased as both the state and private sector hospitals braced for a shortage of essential medicines.
These wide-ranging medicines include antibiotics (crucial in the treatment of infections) ranging from routine to high-end varieties; an anti-viral, anti-fungal and worm treatment drug in each category; drugs given for high blood pressure, heart failure, to control diabetes (blood sugar), to reduce cholesterol, to thin the blood (blood-thinning drugs); steroids (also known as wonder drugs); non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS); pain-killers; anti-seizure drugs; psychiatric and also neurological drugs (including a drug given for migraine); gastritis drugs; anti-asthmatic drugs; hormonal drugs (including thyroxine); and even the simple fever-reducing paracetamol.
These medicines are in the form of tablets, capsules, oral suspensions, inhalers and injections.
The initial price-hike of 29% of these 60 gazetted drugs came in mid-March and the second 40% increase on Thursday.
“The reason for the two price hikes were dollar-rate fluctuations. In March, we allowed the increase because the US$ was at Rs. 255 and once again we allowed an increase because now the dollar is Rs. 350,” a National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) source said.
The Sunday Times understands that there have been intense discussions over a suggestion by the Health Minister that the MRP should be removed on a request by drug-importers who have said that there would be a drug shortage. The NMRA’s Pricing Committee had voiced strong objections to such scrapping of the MRP at a hurriedly-summoned meeting on Monday (April 25), on the grounds that drug-importers would allow prices to sky-rocket to make unreasonably huge profit margins.
The Minister had also indicated that if the MRP is not scrapped the drug-importers were demanding a 90% mark-up on these essential medicines to which the Pricing Committee had pointed out that no essential commodity was ever given a 90% mark-up.
When the Minister raised issue over medicinal shortages, the Sunday Times understands that the Pricing Committee had informed him that the shortages were due to the lack of dollars for importers to open Letters of Credit and not due to the price control. It had also stated that the NMRA had recommended price hikes on several occasions considering the devaluation of the rupee.
The Pricing Committee had also pointed out other measures that could be taken to ensure the availability of medicines. These measures included the importation of essentials and stoppage of imports of unnecessary medicinal products. Agreeing with the Pricing Committee, the Minister had requested it to submit what was discussed in writing. This had been done the same day, it is learnt.
Meanwhile, with regard to non-gazetted drugs, there has been a 20% increase in prices on April 8 and an earlier price-hike on March 11.
According to the gazette issued on Friday, every trader, distributor, pharmacist, medical practitioner, dentist, veterinary surgeon and medical institution, including a private medical institution or pharmacy shall maintain the price of the medicines given in a scheduled list at the MRP or revised retail price whichever is less.