“To ensure that each household is provided nutritious, essential food items without any shortage.”
“In order to reach this mission we have organized our marketing services in a proper manner to serve the customers and to provide the food items to them at reasonable, affordable prices. In order to reach this service commitment the Food Department has used all the resources of its different units and the services of its committed employees. The Food Department gives great importance to serve its customers.”
Mrs. J. Krishnamoorthy
It is with great pleasure that I receive you to the Web Site of the Food Commissioner’s Department of Sri Lanka.
History of Food Department
When the world faced the 2nd world war, it suppressed almost all the countries and even affected internal and external affairs of Sri Lanka. It created disorder in Sri Lankan trade. There were hindrances in equal food distribution in the country and Sri Lankans had to face an issue in getting their food. The rulers were hasten in finding solutions for constant supply of food to redress people from this pressure.
As a result, measures were taken to establish Consumer Authority and it took over the responsibility of food distribution constantly in a fair manner by determining their prices. Consumer Authority handled its duties approximately around one year and with the expectation of getting fulfilled them by a government department; the Food Department was established in 1942 as a government representative of importing food, storing, fixing prices and etc.
The Food Department was founded in 1942.The Food Commissioner was the Head of the department. The Food Commissioner regularly engaged in discharging the duties handled by the Consumer Authority up to the year of 1943 and actions were taken to address the issues occurred in island wide food distribution.
This concession was granted to the public by every government from 1943 to 1979 and the Food Department engaged in the tasks of issuing Ration Books and supplying necessary food items successfully. The activities such as supplying food items necessary under Ration Book System, importing required food items , storing and distributing them to district warehouses of the department was handled by the Food Department while further making arrangements to maintain adequate store complexes to store food carried from warehouses of harbor and district warehouses in every district for regional food distribution. Among the warehouses used by the Food Department there were renovated buildings which were built by foreigners for military purposes during the 2nd World War period and even now they are used as department stores. The Food Department which had a huge capacity and island wide spread warehouse network, rendered a yeoman service and became outstanding. Further, the Food Commissioner directly co-ordinated with District Secretaries with the objective of maintaining his administration regularly in every province. On the basis of bearing the responsibility of maintaining food supply in a broader range, the Food Department could achieve the level of “A” graded major department of the country.
With the increase of population the government understood that there is no necessity in free supply of food for Sri Lankans; poor people as well as people who earn a very high income since it made difficult to maintain the other heads of expenditure. Thus when The Rice Ration Book System was terminated in 1979 with the introduction of Poverty Relief Stamp System, the Food Department transferred its power of issuing poverty concession rations to Poverty Relief Commissioner’s Department. Food Commissioner’s Department continued its functions further remaining in the same objective of importing food items to be distributed at Co-operative Societies under Poverty Relief Stamp System.
Prima Flour Factory was established within Trincomalee harbor in 1979 and the Food Department was vested with the monopoly of importing wheat grain, processing at Prima Flour Processing Complex and distributing them instead of imported flour distribution. Apart from the distribution of food the Food Department continued its task of supplying Kerosene oil and food items such as rice, flour and sugar under Stamp System by 1986 and the due amount was settled by the Poverty Relief Department. Thus, the Food Department functioned with much responsibilities in meeting the objectives of the Government through importing food items to fulfill food necessity of nation and distributed with much responsibility. The authorized power of importing sugar and rice vested with The Food Department was transferred to private sector in 1987 and 1989 respectively and by the latter part of 1986 the Food Department; the nation’s major representative of food distribution became inactive. However, the Food Department did not ignore its objective due to the mere loss of one duty.
Thereafter, the Food Department took over the authority of the kitchen complex and the bakery situated at Elliot Road , Borella in 1990 and carried out its functions by uplifting bakery industry, making bread using locally processed flour and distributing cooked food to Colombo city and government institutions.
Parallel to this, the process of Prima flour distribution was successfully continued up to 2000 without any impediment. The Food Department lost its monopoly of flour distribution which had for two decades from 1981.Under these circumstances the department did not ignore its objective and engaged in the process of closing accounts of the related activities with the expectation of taking over any task the government would assign. According to the government decision of closing the kitchen and the bakery at Elliot Road, Borella in 2002 and transferring its assets to Perk Institution the department had to ignore a part of its mission.
Although the department had to function towards diverse objectives and missions from 1943 to 2002 the department was able to move towards success according to the prevailing circumstances. Though the department had to manage this condition its primary objective was to ensure the food security. As making opportunity to prevent from ignoring that objective, measures were taken to encourage bonded warehouse owners.
The government instructed to liquidate the advance account of food distribution in 2004 and the department had to liquidate it. According to the government decision of not continuing the programme of food distribution, the duties of the Food Department decreased and the Secretary to the Ministry became the Acting Food Commissioner.
The government started to purchase rice under a guaranteed price in 2005 and the department had to process rice and store them in warehouses. As a result the Food Department which was to be liquidated was limited only to maintain a rice buffer stock in terms of the Cabinet Decision CP/06/0901/218/025 dated 25th May.
As per the Cabinet Paper TMCC/2008/18 dated 11th August 2008 it was suggested to restructure the Food Department and it was adopted by the Cabinet Memorandums CP/08/342/016 and CP/0/1482/342/016 dated 04th September 2008.
A new lady Food Commissioner was appointed in the middle of 2009 and the department rejuvenated as a stakeholder in achieving government objectives. Accordingly, the department could contribute to the government revenue by renting out 126 warehouses out of 146 and 366 houses at Dhanyagama at Trincomalee. Further the department was able to retain 23 warehouses to maintain a buffer stock of 100,000 MT.
A plentiful ever received best harvest could reap by granting fertilizer concession ,importing infrastructure facilities and encouraging farmers to grow without keeping any bare land with the objective of uplifting Local Agriculture in accordance with Mahinda Chinthana Policy introduced at the beginning of 2010.When the farmers were interrupted in selling their harvest at a reasonable price, the Food Department made arrangements to purchase paddy through Paddy Marketing Board at a guaranteed price and store them in its warehouses.
Measures were taken at the beginning of 2011 to store the said buffer stock of rice in Food Department warehouses. Since the buffer stocks had been stored for a long time, chemicals had to be used for pest control. In the meantime the department observed that usage of chemicals decrease the high quality of rice, a huge sum should be afforded on it and the methods prevailed were not suitable to preserve rice approximately one year. On this ground the Food Department investigated four scientific methods of storing rice as a result of studies on store construction.
Accordingly, the Food Department made arrangements to prepare a project proposal to construct such four types of store models and followed scientific methods on it in order to submit it to parties concerned and get the necessary approval in the implementation of its stages. However since sufficient provisions were not made for the proposed projects of 2012, it had to manage on the basis on priority of provisions. The department could complete the construction of the Mechanical Ventilator System and Natural Ventilator System, installation of related scientific equipment and the construction of the operation unit which control them.
Since the department was not granted financial provisions from the treasury, it had to make provisions for 10,000MT of rice by regular arrangement of the expenditure under certain objects made by the annual estimate. The department made arrangements to commence storing rice in the relevant stores utilizing the said provisions. Though the last year was a challenging year to complete these activities, the department was able to reach all the targets by facing the challenges in the right manner.
The Food Department has gone beyond the storage of rice and other grain and has made arrangements now to submit a project proposal and make relevant plans to construct two Scientific stores in order to store buffer stocks of B onions and potatoes. Parallel to that, since measures have already taken the construction of another scientific store in 2013, steps have taken to get required provisions for that. Thus, the future plans of the Food Department is to work with utmost dedication to improve stores in achieving expected level using minimum cost, maintaining buffer stocks and identifying the quantity of surplus of rice for export.