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Sri Lankan police burn ‘smuggled’ turmeric amidst import ban and soaring prices

Sri Lankan police burned approximately 532 kg of turmeric which they alleged was smuggled from India last week, as an import ban on the spice has sent prices soaring.

On Sunday, Sri Lankan police also seized 20,000 kg of turmeric smuggled by sea, allegedly from India. “The consignment had been loaded to a fishing trawler mid-sea. We suspect it came from India. It was apprehended along the island’s southern coast,” police spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana stated. 

According to Sri Lanka's Secretary to the Minister of Health Services, the tumeric found in Mannar was immediately incinerated due to its risk of COVID-19 contamination. 

The Sri Lankan government recently imposed the import ban as part of a series of measures related to the coronavirus pandemic in an attempt to strengthen Sri Lanka's economy by promoting domestic production. However, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's blanket ban on the import of spices instead created a turmeric shortage and a growing black market. 

Sri Lanka produces only 2,000 tonnes of turmeric a year against a domestic demand of 7,000 tonnes. The demand-supply gap has driven the price of a single kg of turmeric to 4,000 to 5,000 LKR from 325 LKR.

Recently, Mannar locals complained against the hike in Turmeric powder prices, a vital ingredient in Tamil and Sinhalese cooking, after the introduction of the import bans. 

In November, the European Union also aired concerns about Sri Lanka’s import ban, highlighting the controversy of the “unfair” ban, which prevents the outflow of foreign exchange, whilst Sri Lanka aims to become a “regional trading hub.” 

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