ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 44

Essential items: Fixed prices only at State shops

By Nadia Fazlulhaq

Despite the Trade and Consumer Ministry deciding to fix prices for a few essential commodities and wholesale traders agreeing to this, consumers do not seem to have benefited as high prices still prevail in the retail market, with only State organizations selling at fixed prices.

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena said the fixed prices of all essential commodities are effective only at the 45 Laksathosa branches, the 10 regional economic centres, the three budget shops and cooperatives around the country.

Rice for sale at different prices depending on variety and quality

Old Moor Street Trade Association secretary ----Thavagnanasooriyam said that even though some wholesale traders may agree to fix prices, some other wholesalers as well as some of the retailers may place prices which differ from the fixed price.

“The value of the dollar is fluctuating so it is difficult to fix a price for imported goods, especially when the foreign suppliers may place a certain price at which we will have to buy them. As a result some of the wholesalers won’t stick to this agreement,” he said.

Kollupitiya, Wellawatte and Borella public markets were some of the places The Sunday Times visited and found that even though the wholesale traders have agreed upon some price fixing, retailers are selling at higher prices.

“Even though the Government has said that a kilo of dhal can be given for Rs.75, if will be seen that the consumer will get only low quality dhal for that price. It is not practicable for the Ministry to place a price on items like dhal, sugar and dried fish because prices depend on the quality,” said Balachandran, a retail shop owner.

A retail shop owner Nimalasiri said with the fuel price increasing it is practically impossible to sell goods at a fixed price.

“Not only fuel, but shop rent, electricity and water costs are our other expenses. We make a profit by selling goods and this Government decision is not practical at all,” he said.Mrs. Manuel who was shopping said that at the end of the day the consumers won’t gain anything as they have to pay a higher price even though the Ministry had signed agreements with wholesale traders.

Another housewife Mrs. Aravindan said the decrease in prices had not been seen.

“Essential items are bought by consumers these days, but we haven’t felt any decrease in prices. In fact, we have noticed that retail prices are going up daily” she said.

Minister Gunewardena said that chicken will also be named as an essential item and its price brought down to Rs.200 a kilo.
All Island Poultry Association chairman D.D. Wanasinghe said that after lengthy discussions, a maximum price of Rs. 250 per kilo of broiler chicken had been decided on.

“It is difficult to control retailers’ prices which may change from time to time, especially when the costs of products and input items are very high” he said.

“How can we be expected to reduce prices when the fuel price has gone up. We need fuel to transport the chicken from the farms. Some of the branded broiler chicken producers may agree to this but as a whole many of the traders who sell wet, skinless, fresh chicken do not agree with the price fixing” said M.A. Cader, a trader selling chicken in the Wellawatte market.

According to Mr. Cader, with an experience in this business for 10 years, the price of a chick is around Rs. 100 and it has to be maintained for a few months, which will also be an additional cost.

Today the market price of the kilo of broiler chicken is between Rs. 220 and Rs. 250 while skinless wet chicken is around Rs. 330 per kilo.

Meanwhile, the minister has warned that wholesale and retail traders and shop owners should keep on display from tomorrow the prices of items sold by them or face action under the Consumer Protection Act.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.