Posted on January 25th, 2023

Sarath Wijesinghe President’s Counsel, former Ambassador to UAE and Israel and former Chairman of Consumer Affairs Authority

Egg Poultry Crisis is deep

No doubt the Egg Crisis and Poultry industry is in deep crisis that has shattered the government already in trouble. Egg prises are skyrocketing with price increases that cannot be controlled and shortages of items in the market. The government and the CAA is working together to bring down or stabilize prices with no success aggravating the situation on indirect price control namely the maximum price mechanism found in the CAA when the Minister of the view on shortages he may advice the CAA to publish the maximum prize of the items after the research study and the gazette notification, (Section 18 of the CAA Act no 9 of 2003) challenged before the Supreme Court giving an order to reverse the steps taken by CAA  forthwith. Maximum price (MRP) was prised as rs 44 and 46 directing the trader to sell the prise nominated the traders did not or unable to oblige for reasons given by them in public via media, when egg was sold at high prices in the market ignoring the directions by the CAA. CAA in return rounded up the trader through the network of the officers in a losing battle due to the shortage of the staff and difficulties in covering the entire country with a merge staff. EGG is not the only consumer item in short supply and high prices as the prises have gone up due to inflation and increase of the consumer items in all sectors which is the world trend and mainly due to mismanagement of economy by all previous governments continuously. Egg issue in fact is an issue brewing which is the tip of the iceberg when the consumer was importantly demanding price stabilization due to high cost of living the consumer says unbearable. Egg issue is only one of the issues faced by the Sri Lankan consumer. Prices of every consumer item has gone up drastically with no increase of the income or salaries in the private and public sector. Prices of gas, food items, household and any and many items to be sold have gone up in prices with no control to the government miserably facing the citizen and media helplessly. Let us now take the egg issue in isolation on the steps taken by the ministry trade and the relevant organizations headed by the Consumer Affairs Authority the main regulator of prices of consumer items and services. Egg prices and as a result the poultry product and cost of living is fast increasing pointing at the state as responsible and the government has taken all measures to curtail it as early as possible.

Current turmoil

As a result of the current turmoil the sale of eggs have come down to 86000 from one million a blow on the poultry industry and egg industry in particular, both lucrative and a productive products locally produced for the consumer going through many hardships. Yet he price of eggs were under no control despite the Gazette notifications and the rounding up of traders by CAA officers that proved futile due to lack of staff and the ineffective network of the institution. There is opposition for import of eggs and poultry items by the local traders and the health sector fearing spread of diseases especially from India and other countries where the disease re prevalent. It is the duty f the CAA as the regulator on consumer matters to monitor the quality and price to be affordable and suited to the consumer already pressed with shortages other food items, drugs and shortages of money due to economic clampdown due to the mismanagement of all previous regimes. MRP appear to be not a solution as the price nominated has not been done with a proper research and to make any changes or adjustments the Minister has to make subsequent gazetteer notifications indication MRP not a solution for the  current issue even as a temporary measure. It seems the government will have to look for other avenues to bring about a permanent solution that is being discussed highest starters with experts and senior politicians. The relevant Ministers, Ministry secretaries with the President’s adviser has correctly planned out a collective plan with all the parties responsible such as the producers of row materials, small and major producers, options to import aiming at bringing the prices of egg down to the consumer already pressed with price increase and cost of living as a result from all corners. It is also proved that litigation and the punishment of the trader too is not a solution as it has been fruitless rounding up the traders.

What about going back to price control until a permanent solution is sought?

It is s long procedure as the current at no 9 of 2003 has replaced the price control act and two others which is still in practice in UK with changes very successfully with DTI department of trade and industry and the battery of consumer organizations led by WHICH and the only option left is to change the entire CAA replaced by a new act incorporation all the modern needs and aspirations meeting the targets and needs of the modern digital age and the existence of new platforms and online business when CAA is not ready for new changes to keep pace with the changes. The proposals made by the previous Chairman s in the legal department of the CAA and it is high time to use all the available resources and the experts on consumer law who are willing to help the process. Going back to the main topic the solution do not lie on MRP price control or any but to do drastic changes and introduce a new consumer act to meet the current /future needs and aspirations I compatible with the digital age and new inventions and practices.

Way out from the egg issue and the current turmoil of the escalation of process with no control

This issue is only the tip of the iceberg as the real issues are brewing and following fast expecting the worst. A solution is needed looking into all the areas such as the producers, relevant departments, As an interim measure a committee is appointed consisting all stallholders with a Expert representative from the president’s office which is a sensible measure as a temporary solution until the CAA act is amended and economic reforms and public policy matters are placed in place for a permanent solution to bran down the prize of all consumer items as a whole which is an impossible task considering the economic downturn and the debuts daily mounting fast with no solutions. Interim measure is sensible and MRP and price control may not be the solution to the crisis.

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