Sri Lanka’s ‘bread battle’ bankrupts 2,000 bakers: industry

Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja and Dr. Dinusha Panditaratne

November 9, 2010 (AFP) – A Sri Lankan government campaign against bread and other wheat products has forced some 2,000 bakers out of business and left many more under threat, an industry body said Tuesday. The All Ceylon Bakery Owners’ Association said more than a quarter of bakers in the island had closed down this year because of high taxes and other government moves to discourage imported wheat.

“The government has intensified a campaign against bread,” association president N.K. Jayawardena said. “One minister has equated eating bread to ‘terrorism’. This is absurd.”

The government has raised taxes on wheat imports twice in the past three months in a bid to discourage bread and encourage the consumption of locally-produced rice, the staple food in the island of 20 million people.

Colombo argues that eating rice is healthier than consuming bread and other wheat-based products, which earlier this month it ordered should not be served at state hospitals, prisons and schools.

The country, led by all-powerful President Mahinda Rajapakse, spent over 250 million dollars on wheat imports in 2009.

A senior government official said there was no official ban on wheat, but the authorities w