Prime Minister D M Jayaratne has welcomed the increase
in the price of bread and wheat flour. Addressing a public
function in his Gampola constituency the Premier made a case for
further increasing the price of bread and wheat flour.
He was naturally alarmed that not only was the country losing
valuable foreign exchange that go towards importing wheat flour
but also by the fact that the people who at one time ate three
meals of rice a day were now hooked on bread and food made out
of wheat flour.
The Premier was only echoing the sentiments expressed by
eminent persons on the harm that could be caused by our
overdependence of bread and wheat flour based products.
As an individual coming from essentially a rural background
the Premier is all too aware of the negative fall-out on the
rural economy by not only the penchant for bread eating by the
rural population but other invading influences that could
drastically change the eating habits of the village population
as can be seen from spread of well known food chain outlets far
and wide across the country.
Hot on the heels of the Premier’s injunction to people to
consume rice giving up the bread eating habit the Patriotic
National Movement too issued a media release hailing the
increase in the price of wheat flour, asserting that this would
increase the price of wheat flour based products including bread
thus encouraging people to turn to rice and rice flour products.
It also pointed to the valuable foreign exchange the country
would be able to save by such a move.
There was a vigorous move to promote the consumption of rice
based products not long ago and even bread made out of rice
flour was popularized. But this campaign too lost steam as with
all other campaigns that started with much fanfare.
It is hoped that this would be revived and the virtues and
benefits of rice consumption be instilled into the people
especially given the heavy toll taken on the health of the
public resulting from the increase in the consumption of bread
and wheat flour based products across the country.
The move by the Government to once again promote the
consumption of rice and rice based products is a step in the
right direction. True, this coincides with the decision by the
Government to remove duty waivers granted to wheat flour
importers and the resultant rise in the price of bread and wheat
However, there is no gainsaying the value of reverting back
to our staple if we are to produce a healthy nation. For it is
no denying that consumption of bread and wheat based products
have contributed to increase in diseases such as diabetes.
The increasingly sedentary lifestyles led by the majority of
our people especially in the cities have exacerbated the
problem. Also in today’s fast pace life there is a tendency to
go for fast food or snacks.
No more do we see the well known buth mula carried by office
workers. What happened to those army of cyclists with their
lunch carriers who roamed the Fort and Pettah in the good old
days to deliver the mid day meal of rice to the Mercantile
Today, the rice eating habit among the majority of population
is gradually fading to be replaced by a penchant for fast food
which needless to say are unhealthy and a purveyor of diseases.
One way of confronting the problem of course is to increase the
price of wheat flour though if this alone would get our people
back to the rice eating habit is a moot point.
It should be backed up with an aggressive campaign to
highlight the advantages of rice consumption as against the dire
consequences of bread eating among a wider section of our
This should be augmented by steps to fight the strategies
Multinational food chains to promote fast foods that have had
a stranglehold on a people especially our youth, if one goes by
the roaring trade at the ubiquitous Pizza huts and other well
known multinational food chain outlets which have also made
inroads into the rural areas that have hitherto been brought up
on a diet of rice.