April 03, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka is in talks to relax rice export curbs in at least three countries so that cheaper imports could lower the price of the staple commodity ahead of a local festival, a senior minister said. Trade minister Bandula Gunewardene said Sri Lanka has had discussions with Myanmar, Pakistan and India to allow at least 250,000 metric tonnes of rice to be sold to Sri Lanka this year.
Gunewardene is due to travel to Myanmar this weekend to sign a deal that will allow the island to import 100,000 metric tonnes of rice this year.
Discussions have also been had with India to allow 100,000 metric tonnes to be sold to Sri Lanka. Gunewardene said discussions were underway to allow rice to be shipped through Tuticorin and Madras ports.
India and several rice surplus countries have put price ceilings on rice exports in the hope of curbing domestic prices, while others have banned foreign sales outright.
“We have also talked with Pakistan to allow 50,000 tonnes of IRI-6 parboiled rice to be sold to Sri Lanka on concessionary terms,” Gunewardene told LBO.
He said any private importer could also import rice once an export market was opened.
“We also want to build a buffer stock,” h