Sri Lanka consumes an estimated 7,000 tonnes of turmeric annually, and nearly 5,000 tonnes were imported from India until COVID-19 struck the country.
Sri Lanka police on Sunday seized 20,000 kg of turmeric smuggled by sea, reportedly from India, amid a shortage persisting since Sri Lanka banned imports to support local farmers in the pandemic year.
“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 told The Hindu.
The coronavirus pandemic, which hit Sri Lanka in March, has severely impacted its economy, prompting the government to restrict imports and pledge greater support to local farmers. Sri Lanka consumes an estimated 7,000 tonnes of turmeric annually – the ingredient is widely used across different cuisines in the island nation – and nearly 5,000 tonnes were imported from India until COVID-19 struck the country.
Meanwhile, consumers are still finding it hard to purchase turmeric at reasonable prices in the capital and other districts, and point to a black market where a kg is sold for up to LKR 5,000 (roughly ₹1,940), though the government capped the maximum retail price of turmeric powder at LKR 750 (about ₹291) per kilogram. Agriculture Department officials had earlier indicated that local production may pick up by early 2021, but it remains to be seen how much of the local demand their produce can meet.
Earlier this year, Colombo-based traders wrote to the government, seeking the release of 1 million kilogram of turmeric, imported from India prior to the pandemic, and stuck at the Colombo Port, to ease the pressure in the local market. The consignment is yet to be cleared for sale in the local wholesale and retail markets, sources said.