Trade, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Bandula Gunawardana said the government was not ready to lift taxes during harvest time to bring down the prices of locally produced food commodities but would continue to import essential consumer goods and sell them under the newly introduced price formula.
Minister Gunawardana made these comments during an impromptu media briefing he held along with Highways Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle at a whole sale establishment on 4th Cross Street, Pettah after an inspection tour of the country`s largest wholesale market of consumer items.
`We are not ready to dance to the tune of the UNP. The UNP wants us to lift taxes on imports of essential food commodities. We do not import rice. We import only Basmati. What will happen to the local farmer if the government lifts taxes on food imports?` he asked.
The government would not let local produces rot in farms or pay a reduced price to rice farmers. The intention of the government was to maintain a price formula which would be at a bearable level to the consumer while protecting the local farmer, he said.
The Ministry expects to continue the price formula initially introduced for the festive season and the progress will be reviewed when the cost of living committee headed by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake meets on April 20, Minister Gunawardana said.
Minister Fernandopulle said the government had been able to prove that the misinformation campaign carried out during the last couple of weeks that there was a shortage of essential food commodities was unfounded. The 4th Cross Street whole sale traders have sufficient food items for the entire country and with the assistance of the government, the wholesale traders would be able to maintain the prices of essential food items to the minimum possible.
`The government has been able to bring the price of certain food items even below the rate agreed under the price formula as a result of the agreement signed between the Consumer Affairs Authority and the wholesale trader` Minister Fernandopulle said.