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Ample buffer stocks of salt: No need for panic buying

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‘Salterns not affected by X-Press Pearl debris’

by Suresh Perera

Sri Lanka has ample buffer stocks of salt to meet the local demand for the next one and a half years, industry players assured, while allaying fears of an imminent shortage following concerns over toxic chemicals from the fire-stricken X-Press Pearl feeder vessel seeping into salterns in the southern and north western parts of the country.

People clamored to stock up on salt over the past week as word spread that this basic household ingredient will be in short supply as salterns have been contaminated resulting in a drop in production.

Customers are lapping up stocks of salt, a delivery service operator said. “One of them wanted 20 packets included in his order”.

“As everybody is asking for salt, we decided to restrict supplies to two packets per customer”, he noted.

Dismissing the fears as “unfounded”, industry officials clarified that salt is an ingredient produced in excess of market demand in Sri Lanka and available buffer stocks alone put together will be sufficient until mid 2023.

Apart from the country’s four major producers of salt – Lanka Salt Limited, Puttalam Salt Limited, Raigam Wayamba Salterns PLC and the government-owned Matai/Elephant Pass Salt Limited – there are also many other salterns run by private organizations.

Sri Lanka’s annual demand for salt is 160,000MT (120,000MT for domestic and 40,000MT for industrial use), while the combined output is 255,000MT, which translates into an excess production of 95,000MT. Salt is harvested largely in the southern, north western, northern and eastern parts of the country where there’s relatively less rainfall.

“In the event of incessant showers, which hampers production, we open the deep tanks to supplement stocks to ensure that supplies keep moving to the marketplace”, says Sunimal Ariyasena, General Manager of Puttalam Salt Limited, one of the major salt producers in the country.

With a depth of one and a half feet, these tanks are generally opened every three years to augment existing stocks when necessary, he explained.

Asked whether salterns have been affected by the debris from the vessel that went up in flames, as claimed in some quarters, he replied, “there was no threat of contamination as the plastic pellets (from the ship) were floating in the sea and were swept to the shore”.

The production of salt is a long drawn, chemical-free process, where no virus, bacteria or fish can survive due to the high salinity concentration in salterns, Ariyasena continued. “It’s a safe product for consumption”.

He assured that there’s enough and more buffer stocks of salt and even if there’s a shortfall due to packeting frequencies (with a one year ‘expiry date’), the process can always be ramped up to meet the demand.

There was a time salt was imported from India by traders due to the low procurement cost. However, this was subsequently banned as Sri Lanka achieved self-sufficiency.



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Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border

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BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.

Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.

A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.

Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.

They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals

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Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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Gas prices up

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State-owned Litro has increased the price of domestic gas with effect from midnight yesterday.

Chairman of Litro Company Muditha Peiris said the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder would be increased by Rs 334, the price of a 5 kg gas cylinder by Rs 135 and the price of a 2.3 kg gas cylinder by Rs 61 .The 12.5 kg cylinder is Rs 4,743.

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