The ultra-nationalist Sri Lankan government’s efforts to manage the economy has spurred a new war – against ‘wheat terrorism’.
The government drive to slash consumption of wheat-based food, especially bread, is decimating what are presumably some of the worst purveyors of terror: bakers.
Other bakers are trying to use rice flour to make bread ... because "we consider it our patriotic duty."
More than 2,000 bakers - a quarter in the island -have closed down this year because of high taxes and other government moves to discourage imported wheat, the All Ceylon Bakery Owners' Association says.
Sri Lanka spent over 250 million dollars on wheat imports in 2009, AFP reported.
The government has raised taxes on wheat imports twice in the past three months in a bid to discourage bread and encourage the consumption of locally-produced rice.
Sinhala nationalist have even said wheat is part of an international conspiracy foisted upon Sri Lanka by foreign corporations, The Independent and BBC reported.
At the same time, there are nationalist economic imperatives: "The government is promoting rice flour and wants to support local farmers," Ranasinghe said.
Meanwhile, desperate bakers are trying to comply with government demands they use rice flour instead to produce bread.
"We are taking every opportunity to use rice flour. We consider it our patriotic duty," Mahinda Ranasinghe, the bakers’ association's treasurer told The Independent.
Bakers are also lobbying government ministers and key officials in a bid to save thousands of jobs in the bakery and confectionery industry.
Meanwhile, the government has banned wheat products from various public institutions, including hospital, prison and school canteens.
"School authorities are not allowing students to bring wheat flour products purchased even from outside," All Ceylon Bakery Owners' Association President N.K. Jayawardane, told the Daily Mirror.