Saturday 22nd April, 2023

Issues crop up at such a rate in this county that it is well-nigh impossible to keep track of them At present, two things are dominating public discussion—unconscionably high egg prices and a hare-brained government move to banish monkeys to China to prevent crop damage here; they have eclipsed many other issues which are serious enough to warrant public attention. Nobody is talking about attacks on democracy, especially the throttling of the electoral process. ‘Eggs and monkeys’ have also diverted the attention of the public from the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill.

A government that is not equal to the task of taming a bunch of egg traders who exploit poultry farmers and consumers alike, with impunity, is not worth its salt. It has already suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Rice Millers’ Mafia, which always has the last laugh. Strangely, the swashbuckling government leaders who order crackdowns on protests, and threaten to confiscate the properties of workers who down tools, cringe and cower before wealthy businesspersons who are above the law to all intents and purposes.

The Ministry of Trade issued a gazette announcing maximum retail prices for eggs to be sold singly. The influential egg traders succeeded in circumventing this regulation; they have obtained permission to sell eggs by weight! Now, consumers have to pay more for eggs despite the much-advertised price control.

The government has opted for egg imports from India, but the egg prices are still in the stratosphere. The state machinery is corrupt and geared to serve the interests of egg traders if the shameful manner in which some bureaucrats are trying to foil efforts being made to bring down egg prices is any indication.

Whether the government, which cannot even crush the ‘Egg Mafia’, will be able to break the back of the economic crisis is the question.It behoves consumers to flex their muscles. They should give serious thought to reducing egg consumption at least for a few weeks.

Sri Lanka considers China a friend in need, and with reason. The former has benefited immensely from the latter’s munificence though it is said that there is no such thing as a free lunch. China is one of the few nations that helped this country get rid of the Tiger menace. The Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government has now sought China’s help to tackle the monkey menace.

Monkeys are among the animals that cause severe crop damage in this country. Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has drawn heavy flak from animal rights activists, environmentalists and the Opposition for having proposed that monkeys be sent to Chinese zoos to prevent crop damage here. Farmers have welcomed the Minister’s proposal.

The government has, in its wisdom, decided to open up more land including ‘other forests’ for agricultural purposes. This is bound to deprive more wild animals of their natural habitat and drive them to raid cultivations. What needs to be done is to prevent crop losses and thereby increase the national food production. If the government cares to consult local scientists and other experts, it will be able to minimise crop damage caused by wild animals, and post-harvest losses due to other factors. The human-monkey conflict has to be ended, but in a humane and sustainable manner. There are no shortcuts. Let that be the bottom line.