ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 22

Crooks amidst the crumbs

3 a.m. food queues tell tragic tale of Jaffna

By Chris Kamalendran

In spite of intensified attempts to expedite the flow of essential items to the Jaffna peninsula, including airlifting food supplies, shortages and soaring prices are affecting the people, according to reports from the area.

While the lack of transport facilities has contributed to this situation, the actions of some unscrupulous people are further burdening the people. There are reports of people buying food and and other essential items from the army welfare shop at cost price and selling them at higher prices to traders.

The government this week airlifted 25 metric tonnes of food to the north as rough seas made sea transportation almost impossible. The peninsula needs an average of 11,000 metric tonnes of food a month, but since August 8 todate, it has only got 19,500 metric tonnes, according to officials at the Jaffna Government Agent’s office.

Despite government’s offer to transport food items and other essentials by sea for the private traders, The Sunday Times learns that the response has been poor.

“We are reluctant to use the sea route as we run a high risk. In the event of the shipments getting affected we don’t get compensation as it has happened to us on three occasions in the past”, a trader in Jaffna said. The shortages of food and other essentials has been reported since August 8 when the last batch of lorries travelled to the Jaffna peninsula via the Muhamalai point.
Since then, food shortages have been reported while prices have been increasing dramatically. Currently a kilogram of rice ranges from Rs. 120 to 180, sugar Rs. 300, flour Rs. 100. and Garlic Rs. 1,000. The price of a coconut is Rs. 70 and a litre of coconut oil Rs. 400.

In contrast, the Army welfare centre sells at the normal market prices with rice selling at Rs. 34 per kilogram, sugar Rs. 68, flour Rs. 26 and milk food at the controlled price of Rs. 165.

However, some of these food stuffs sold at the army welfare centre have ended up in the hands of some who are selling them at higher prices to the traders.

“Some people who have been deprived of their livelihood including fishing and farming have had no alternative but to turn to this business,” a trader told The Sunday Times.

Meanwhile, Military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said they were doing their best to curb traders from selling goods at exorbitant prices by expanding sales at the Army welfare centre. According to reports from the area, elderly people are queuing at the welfare centre from from 3 a.m. onwards although the curfew is lifted only at 5 a.m.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.