Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) for the first time in history imposed a price control on eggs.
This took place last Friday, when the GoSL imposed a maximum retail price (MRP) of Rs 43 on a white egg and Rs 45 on a brown egg. Consequently, there is an egg shortage in the market. Eggs are rich in proteins and vitamins. Therefore, an egg shortage hits infants, children, the aged and the sick in particular, the most.
However, at a meeting that egg producers had with the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA), the latter had agreed to allow for the sale of both kinds of eggs at a revised price of Rs 50 an egg, but has refused to withdraw the above Gazette, specifying the agreed upon new MRP. Trade Minister Nalin Fernando had also been present.
According to poultry farmers, due to the current MRP, layers are being slaughtered for meat, resulting in chicken prices drastically being reduced, but, at the expense of causing a short supply in eggs, at least up to the short term, due to, ipso facto, a short supply of layers.
But if the CAA, which functions under the Trade Ministry, has agreed for new Rs 50 MRP on an egg, both brown and white, the previous Gazette should be revoked and a new Gazette, specifying the new MRP of an egg, regardless of its texture, should be issued immediately for the good of the country.
The imputation for the delay in issuing a fresh Gazette is that the immediately preceding President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was known as ‘Gazette President’ for his penchant to issue a Gazette, only to revoke it a few days later due to public protests. Therefore, the authorities allegedly fear that they would be tarnished with the same brush if the current Gazette on egg prices is revoked and a new Gazette issued.
But, can the GoSL hold the public and the poultry industry to ransom because their egos will be impacted by issuing a new Gazette pertaining to the subject in question? One of several problems with Sri Lankan leaders is that their ‘egos’ are more important than the country, a trend set by Gota’s elder brother, SLPP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa (MP) whose party commands the majority in the House. When Mahinda was President, he did not extend Emirates Airline’s management contract with SriLankan because it refused to accommodate Mahinda’s entourage as there was no room in the SriLankan airliner in question.
Therefore, laws need to be Gazetted to take action against such pussyfooting officials, regardless of their status, for placing their egos first at the expense of the country. It’s hoped that the proposed 22nd Amendment will address this lacuna in the law.
Meanwhile, according to the Animal Production and Health Department, 80 per cent of the total parent bird (chicken) requirement will have to be supplied through local production while the rest will have to be imported. Therefore, the need to import parent stock due to the slaughter of layers may currently be marginal, in the backdrop that Sri Lanka is also facing a US dollar crisis.
Prior to independence, Sri Lanka used to import its eggs and poultry meat requirements from India. However, coinciding with Sri Lanka’s first foreign exchange (FX) crisis in 1953, such imports were dissuaded and local production was encouraged. Currently, the import taxes on eggs are a general duty of Rs 110 a kilo, a 12 per cent VAT charge and a 10 per cent ‘PAL’ tax respectively, ‘effectively’ dissuading egg imports.
Further, with Sri Lanka facing a worse FX crisis than 1953, it’s unlikely that the country will reduce import taxes on eggs, in the context that only on Tuesday the GoSL slapped a ‘temporary’ ban on imports of a range of items, including mobile phones and computers to Braille typewriters to electric kettles to protect its spartan FX reserves.
Nonetheless, in India, according to Indian-based market.todaypricerates website, the retail price of an egg was Indian Rs (IRs) 4.70 (Sri Lanka Rs (LKR) 21.29) yesterday. Conversions are based on ‘GoogleFinance’ exchange rate of IRs=LKR 4.53.