Dudley storms out of media briefing

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Dudley Sirisena, who is generally considered to be the country’s biggest rice mill owner, in a dramatic exit stormed out of a media briefing in Colombo, after a disagreement over Government imposed control prices led to a dispute yesterday (22), where large-scale rice mill owners sat together to discuss rice prices and shortages.

The heated situation arose when the owner of New Rathna Group of Companies, Lankeshwara Mithrapala disagreed with Chairman of the Araliya Group and the President of the Rice Millers Association, Dudley Sirisena. Sirisena said all rice varieties will be sold under the Government approved controlled prices and suggested to increase the price paid for a bundle of paddy (64kg).

“Despite the fuel crisis and rising packaging prices, rice would be released from today at the prices set by the Government and urge other rice producers to do the same. Especially when the price of diesel has gone up by Rs 250 compared to three months ago and the packaging price has gone up by 300 per cent due to the shortage of raw materials, it is extremely difficult to release rice to the market at these government controlled prices But as a local entrepreneur we decided to sell rice at government controlled prices during this difficult time, regardless of profits,” he added.

Accordingly, Sirisena noted that a kilo of Nadu rice will be sold at Rs 220, a kilo of samba at Rs 230 and a kilo of Keeri samba at
Rs 260. He said considering the recent import relief provided through the Indian credit line, the imported rice should be sold at a price
Rs 30 less than the local paddy market.

“For these three months we should provide rice at the said controlled price and increase the price that we pay for a bundle of paddy. The bundle that we buy for Rs 7,500 should be increased at Rs 8,000; the bundle that we paid Rs 8,000 should be bought for Rs 9,000 hereafter. This will encourage farmers to harvest more and provide justice to the hardships that they go through due to the fuel shortage. If farmers cultivated during these three months by being encouraged by the said well deserved price that was paid for their paddy, the country will not worry about a rice shortage,” he added.

Sirisena added that this stock of rice will be sufficient for three months if people consume rice sparingly.

Mithrapala disagreed with Sirisena’s ideas and noted that he has requested the authorities to take steps to increase prices by Rs 25 due to expenses that they have to bear following the fuel shortage.

A heated situation arose following Mithrapala’s suggestion and Sirisena refused to increase the price of rice and noted that Mithrapala’s calculations doesn’t apply to the paddy stock they have procured for Rs 7,500 per bundle, and the rice mill owners can clearly provide rice to the market according to the government control price in the coming three months.

“He further stated that though many claimed that he was the head of rice mafia, people like Mithrapala who do not want at least to occasionally reduce the prices of their stocks are the real face of the said mafia the media is talking about,” he added.

He said if such mill owners refuse to stick by the control price, the Government should interfere and buy their stocks and sell it at a fixed price to the public.

When Ceylon Today inquired, whether there are plans to increase the price of rice after the termination of the stocks in three months, Sirisena noted that the said concern should be addressed after three months. “We have the stock that we bought for a lower price during the last paddy season, first we should take steps to provide those to a controlled price to the public. If we do not have stocks after three months lets consume porridge,” he answered.

When Ceylon Today inquired whether this sudden empathy on the public is a political campaign for his political entry in 2024, Sirisena noted that he had the chance to enter politics way before all stakeholders who are running the country presently and that he doesn’t wish to go on a journey with a corrupt group.

Sirisena and Mithrapala attended the meeting along with the Small and Medium Scale Rice Producers Association, Chairman B.K. Ranjith, treasurer S.C. Rupasinghe and the K.G.S. group owner M. Zaneer representing rice importers.

By Nabiya Vaffoor