Sri Lanka will lift its protectionist import ban on undu (black gram, vigna mungu) to bring in 2,000 metric tonnes to meet seasonal demand, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardena said.

“The ban will be lifted temporarily to import 2,000 metric tonnes to meet seasonal demand during the Sinhala Hindu new year period,” Gunawardena said. “We want to ensure there is no shortage for those who use it, and they can obtain it at a fair price.”

Taxes will be applicable, he said.

Sri Lanka’s annual undu requirement is 20,000 metric tonnes, Gunawardena said, adding that local producers can’t meet this demand.

This has led to shortages, and black market prices especially around festival seasons in April and December.

Imports will be subject to the Special Commodity Levy under the 2007 No 48 Special Commodity Act, the minister said.

Undu will be imported through the Sri Lanka State Trading (General) Corporation, National Food Promotion Board, and the Hadabima Authority of Sri Lanka.

Protectionist taxes to give unfair profits to import substituting domestic producers have tended to drive smuggling, under in-voicing and corruption of customs authorities.

Sri Lanka’s smuggling of ulundu (vigna mungu) triggered by import controls and high taxes initiated in a nationalist autarky drive have come under fire from opposition legislators representing the minority community.

“Today a kilogram of ulundu is about 1,500 rupees. Ulundu can be bought from India for the equivalent of 200 Sri Lanka rupees. When you tax it can be sold for 400 to 450 rupees. Freight cost is about 10 rupees,” opposition Chanakyan Rasamanikkam told parliament during the December holiday season.

“If you look at people who eat ulundu it is in the North and East and Tamil people estate areas. All over the country there are people who eat ulundu and green gram. By blocking the import of these cereals a mafia has arisen.”



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