Rice farmers have been pampered with billions of rupees of tax payer cash support as well other interventions including blocking of alternative carbohydrates for the people through stiff import duties on flour and potatoes.
The finance ministry said in a statement that on the directions of the president, the controller of imports and exports has stopped the export of paddy and rice until the end of the upcoming main harvest season.
The export ban to give rice at 'affordable prices' comes after years of stiff import duties on wheat and potatoes which has kept carbohydrates at above world average levels for the islands poorest citizens in particular.
Last year Sri Lanka's tax-payers forked out 29.8 billion rupees from their pockets to pay for fertilizer subsidies, not all of which went to rice farmers. In contrast only 16.6 billion rupees was spent on free medicine to the sick.In addition to getting fertilizer subsidies from the tax payer, peoples money is also used by rulers to prop up rice prices.
The finance ministry said the state has a stock of 204,260 metric tonnes of paddy with the state-run Paddy Marketing Board, and a further 59,786 tonnes with districts secretaries.
The state has invested 4,115 million rupees in paddy to keep price up. In addition state banks had given 4,750 rupees to buy up, paddy, the finance ministry statement said.
The export ban comes, comes shortly after other state interventions to push exports. a recent budget proposal promised incentives to firms to set up high quality milling and other processes to help reach an export markets.
It is not clear what the disruption of supplies will do to existing small exporters of rice and the loyalty of their customers.
Sri Lanka's rice prices spike when harvests fail, because imports are taxed at high levels, reducing the food freedoms of the people.
Because Sri Lankan state-supported rice farmers have no experience in catering to an export market unlike their counterparts in Pakistan, Thailand or Vietnam, rice prices plunge when harvests are better, triggering nationalist curbs on food freedoms of other citizens.
A minister said recently that Sri Lanka's rice farmers have been made a 'king' by the current economic policies.