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Cablegate: Sri Lanka Says Purchase of Burmese Rice Will Go Through;

VZCZCXRO9263
RR RUEHLMC
DE RUEHLM #0453 1300750
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090750Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8099
INFO RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2011
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2012
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0875
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 7868
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 6050
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 2344
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 8475
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION

UNCLAS COLOMBO 000453

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/INS, EAP/MLS, AND EEB/TPP/ABT/ATP JANET SPECK
AG FOR FAS CHRIS RIKER
NEW DEHLI PASS TO FAS

E.O 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAGR EAID BM CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA SAYS PURCHASE OF BURMESE RICE WILL GO THROUGH;
PROVIDES $25,000 CYCLONE RELIEF

REF: A. RANGOON 320 B. COLOMBO 428

1. (SBU) Summary: Sri Lanka's Secretary of Trade and Commerce
assured the public that he expected a purchase of 22,000 metric tons
of rice from Burma to go ahead, despite the impact of Cyclone
Nargis. The purchase was part of Sri Lanka's effort to fill a
domestic shortage of about 300,000 metric tons of rice. The
secretary, in making the assurance about the Burmese rice, probably
wanted to avert further public concern about domestic rice shortages
and rising prices. However, in light of the cyclone's devastation,
it looks likely that Sri Lanka will only receive the fraction of the
rice purchase that had already sailed before the cyclone hit.
Separately, Sri Lanka announced Wednesday that it would donate
$25,000 to Burma for cyclone relief efforts. End summary.

2. (U) Secretary of Trade and Commerce R.M.K. Ratnayake told the
local media May 8 that Cyclone Nargis had delayed, but not
cancelled, delivery of 22,000 metric tons of rice that Sri Lanka had
purchased from Burma. He stated that two of three bulk cargo ships
set to deliver the rice had already been loaded and were awaiting a
safety clearance from the Rangoon Harbor Master.

3. (SBU) In light of ref A report that Nargis had totally destroyed
the Rangoon port, Econoff asked Burmese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Tin
Oo Lwin at a social occasion whether the minister's assurance was
realistic. The Ambassador replied that in fact a portion of the
rice had left Burma for Sri Lanka prior to the cyclone. He was
unsure of the size of the shipment. He did not speculate on whether
the remainder would ever follow, as he said that he had no
information on its status and indeed little firm information of any
kind about the situation in Burma.

4. (SBU) Separately, Sri Lanka gave Burma $25,000 as cyclone relief.
Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona gave Ambassador Lwin a
check along with an expression of Sri Lanka's condolences in Colombo
May 8, according to media reports.

5. (SBU) Comment: Sri Lanka is trying to avert worries about further
domestic increases in rice prices, which have doubled in the past
year (ref B). It needs to import about 300,000 metric tons to make
up for a domestic production shortage exacerbated by heavy rains.
It is unclear whether the Trade Secretary's or the Burmese
ambassador's information about the status of the rice shipment is
more accurate. More concretely, Sri Lanka also announced this week
that it had arranged to buy 50,000 metric tons of rice from
Thailand.
BLAKE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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