Rice traders were critical of the government agencies for releasing stocks of paddy for the purpose of alcohol production to a distillery in Kalkudah at a time when the country is said to be facing a rice shortage. Action has been taken to importing rice.
The All Ceylon Peasants Federation (ACPF) informed that 4,000
metric tonnes/4 million kilograms (kg) of paddy had been released from storage at the airport in Mattala, at Rs 28 a kg in Kalkaduh for ethanol production at a massive distillery at present being constructed on a land area of 10 acres in the Batticaloa District.
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna North Western Provincial Councillor Karunaratne added that the Government which had kept the paddy stocks without converting them to rice, now sold the paddy at dirt cheap prices when they were faced with having to empty the storages in order to purchase and store the new stocks of paddy coming in via imports and local seasonal farming.
“This is a big issue. We are made to eat poisonous rice. There is no certification of the quality of the rice in the market. There is a drought. Farmers are unable to farm. People are without food including rice to eat in certain areas of the country. Those who should be punished are at large. How can such shameless things take place? This is a national crime and tragedy,” he questioned.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention queried as to whether the Government with its policy on reducing the consumption of alcohol among members of the public would allow the proposed construction of a grain-based extra neutral alcohol distillery in Kalkudah. The Task Force expressed hope that President Maithripala Sirisena would look into the matter and intervene to halt the said pilot project.
The Task Force confirmed that as per the latest statistics, the District of Jaffna occupied first place in relation to alcohol consumption while the District of Batticaloa, which was home to Kalkudah, was the runner-up District.
Meanwhile, the Koralaipattu Pradeshiya Sabha has issued a directive ordering that all constructions on the pilot project be halted.
Elsewhere, the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol will be holding a board meeting to discuss the matter, following which they would either write to the Minister of Health or seek a discussion with the Minister in this regard.
Chairman of the Authority, Dr. Palitha Abeykoon said that they intended to find out who had given the licence for the project. “We are concerned about this project that is likely to take place. We should not be allowing this. We intend to show our displeasure and dissent against this kind of decision which may have been taken for financial reasons in order to generate income,” he explained.