COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has cut import taxes on maize, rice, flour, and fish, to bring down prices amid a drought, and also cut import taxes on wheat grain, the finance ministry said. A remaining 5 rupee tax on rice has been cut to 25 cents and it would remain in place until December 31. Sri Lanka’s domestic rice prices have risen after harvests halved amid a drought. A tax (special commodity levy) on imported wet fish has been cut by 50 rupees to 25 rupees for three months on the request of a fisheries ministry. Maize, which is a key ingredient of chicken feed will be charged a new 10 rupee special commodity levy replacing a 15 percent import duty, 15 percent value added tax, 7.5 port and airport levy, 2 percent nation building tax and a 35 percent cess. The various taxes totalled about 60 to 70 rupees per kilo of imported maize.
The import taxes on maize slapped to give extra profits to domestic farmers and a grain collector cartel has been blamed by some analysts for protein malnutrition of kids. The tax on imported wheat flour has been cut from 25 rupees a kilo to 15 rupees and tax on wheat grain has been cut from 9 rupees to 6 rupees. The differential taxes on wheat grain and wheat flour has been maintained to give large profits to a miller cartel, critics say. The taxes date back from a time wheat gran milling was a monopoly, they say. Wheat is consumed by the poorest populations in Sri Lanka.