Farmers Federation ready to take legal action against rishad over rice import scam | Daily News


 

Farmers Federation ready to take legal action against rishad over rice import scam

The All Ceylon Farmers Federation is seeking legal advice in order to file charges against former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen for the alleged colossal losses caused to the country through the import of rice stocks when the country had adequate stocks to meet the demand.

National Organiser of the Farmers Federation Namal Karunaratne told the Daily News that 57.6 million kg of rice had been imported to the country in 2014 had been released as animal feed in 2016 and having caused a loss of over 15,150 million to the government.

“It is not only during Bathiudeen’s time, but there has been a huge racket where rice stocks have been imported into the country and these stocks are left in paddy stores until it nears the expiry date and these stocks are then sold as animal feed for a very meagre sum. However, the traders that purchase these rice stocks at very low rates, then re-labels them and sells them to consumers who are unaware that they are purchasing outdated rice. As a result, these tricksters make millions as profit and the officials involved in aiding this scam also gain in commissions.”

He said in 2014 the country had lost Rs.15.157 billion due to such imports which was revealed in the 2017 audit report on Sathosa rice imports.

He said that during the raids carried out on several rice mills,large stocks of imported rice was released as animal feed from storage facilities, including those at Weerawila and Panagamuwa.

“In the Hingurakgoda rice storage facility 46,000 metric tons of imported rice had been released as animal feed whereas 56,000 kg of it had not passed the expiry date but was due to expire by February 28. However, these stocks of imported rice were not used for animal feed, although it was released at a lower rate on the pretext of being used for animal feed. Instead these stocks of rice was being sold in the open market to unsuspecting consumers at the market rate having purchased the stocks at lower rates as animal feed. The poor consumers are unaware that they are being sold outdated stocks of rice which is unfit for human consumption.”

Karunaratne added that the losses incurred by the previous government’s rice imports as well as prior to 2015 where these would also be calculated and added to the complaint.

According to Karunaratne, there is no need to import rice to Sri Lanka as the country produces ample stocks of rice more than adequate to meet the local demand.

“The country’s annual rice consumption is around 3.6 million metric tons annually. The monthly requirement is around 300,000 metric tons. The annual paddy production in the country from the Yala and Maha harvests is around 4.5 to 5 million metric tons.

Therefore, at the beginning of each year we generally have a buffer stock of around 10,000 metric tons in hand.

Hence, there is absolutely no requirement to import rice into the country. However, rice being imported using government funds is a scam to make money. When the Colombo stores was raided recently, 19,738 kg of expired rice stocks were found and buried along with stocks of Dhal and Mung beans and a large amount was released as animal feed. This is a waste of public money,” Karunaratne said, adding that those responsible for such crimes should be given the highest punishment.

 


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