Sugar importers who made massive profits due to a tax concession given by the Government have expressed reservations to a Trade Ministry request to provide sugar to the state-owned Lak Sathosa franchise at lower prices for the next three months.
Sugar importers expressed their reservations during a meeting attended by Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena. At the meeting, a request was made to make available sugar to be sold at Rs 98 through the Lak Sathosa franchise for the next three months.
Accordingly, the Ministry asked the local importers to ensure 4,000 metric tonnes of white sugar stocks be distributed via the Lak Sathosa franchise due to increasing demand in the local market. At present, white sugar is sold at Rs 116 a kilo.
The importers expressed reservations on the urgent request by the ministry, citing difficulties in financing, while pointing to the depreciating rupee value and the condition of settling the payment within seven days.
Most importers were beneficiaries when sugar taxes were cut to 25 cents from 50 rupees a kilo, thereby depriving the government revenue of Rs 15 billion.
A Sugar Importers Association official said local sugar importers had been curtailed from importing sugar from May 25, following a directive issued by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The Association had circulated a letter among importers that they were expected to adhere to the requirement of the Trade Ministry as they were beneficiaries of the reduction of the tax. The letter said they would be reported to the President if they failed to adhere to the request.