Crooks amidst the crumbs
3 a.m. food queues tell tragic tale of Jaffna
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
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
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.