Sri Lanka battles coconut price spike

December 17, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s authorities have imposed price control coconuts — a dietary staple — by setting a ceiling price and arranging imports to bring down prices. So important is the coconut to the national cuisine that shortages in the past have had serious political implications and even been held responsible for the downfall of several governments.

On Thursday, the government set a ceiling retail price of 30 rupees (27 US cents) per nut in a network of state-owned stores, but stocks quickly sold out and then reappeared at more than double the price on the black market.

Analysts have warned that high taxes on imported oil will increase nut prices, as global commodity prices also rose.

‘Black markets’ are created by price controls.

“The government has now decided to import coconuts from India and Malaysia to end the shortages,” a trade ministry official said.

Coconuts have traditionally been a key Sri Lankan export, after tea and rubber, but the conversion of plantations for housing development and increased consumption has led to severe shortages in recent times.

Sri Lanka’s Central Bank said coconut production fell 4.4 percent in