Estate workers urge for subsidised wheat flour

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The plantation community is forced to buy wheat flour from private stores at a higher price because the two main companies that distribute wheat flour in Sri Lanka have not released enough flour to the market.

They said the price of a 450g loaf of bread and that of other snacks had been raised at various levels. Bakery owners claim that they must purchase flour from wholesalers to meet their baking needs.

According to bakery owners, a 50 kg bag of wheat flour is sold at a maximum wholesale price of Rs 18,000 to Rs 20,000, but traders hoard the flour and sell it at a higher price when there is a market shortage.

“Because there is no control price for wheat flour, wholesalers sell wheat flour at different prices,” they explained. “A 450-gram loaf of bread is sold at Rs 300-320, a bun at Rs 110 and a fish bun at Rs 140,” they said.

Although a large number of people worked in the bakery industry in the Nuwara Eliya District, many have opted out because of the price of wheat flour and the resulting cost of bakery items, as people can ill afford to pay such exorbitant prices.

Fasir Mohommed, President of the Hatton Restaurant and Bakery Owners’ Association, said “Inability to buy bakery products has hampered business operations”.

Meanwhile, plantation workers claim that they are paid Rs 1,000 per day to work on tea estates but this is now insufficient to make their daily purchases, including a kilo of wheat flour or a loaf of bread.

They said they work on tea estates and eat just two meals a day, which includes bread and wheat flour-based food. They said they were accustomed to eating wheat flour-based food such as ‘roti’ for many years because it was convenient for them to carry it to the estates and have it at meal time.

According to them, people who live on the plantations eat ‘roti’ and drink coconut milk for breakfast and lunch, and this is the food consumed by their children.

They urged the Government to provide plantation workers with a wheat flour subsidy.

by Neeta PathmaKumari – Norwood