Nutritious food out of reach for low-income families | Print edition

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By Nadia Fazlulhaq

Local powdered milk prices have risen this week, another blow to families who rely on low-cost options.

A 400g pack of local milk powder has been increased from Rs. 830 to Rs. 850 to Rs. 950 approaching the price of an imported milk powder pack priced at Rs 1,160.

“Fresh milk has increased by Rs. 460. Storing milk in refrigerator is a problem due to power cuts. Local dairy manufacturers deciding to raise their prices are a concern for families with children,” said Sandamali, a mother of two from Kaduwela.

The price of a cup of yogurt which was Rs. 35 a year ago is now Rs. 70. Those who used to have yogurt for dessert no longer choose it. Butter has been replaced by fatty spreads in many homes.

“Local dairy manufacturers are suffering from rising raw material and feed costs and at the same time seeing a sharp drop in sales. Even if we go for price increases, the farmer gets very little out of it,” said Binesh Pananwala, president of the All Island Dairy Association.

Many of the foods rich in essential nutrients are expensive. Protein is no longer affordable for low to middle income families.

An egg which was Rs.18 in September 2021, is being sold for Rs. 49-Rs 50. A kilo of dried sprats which was Rs. 900 last year is now just over Rs. 2,000. Even the price of smaller fresh fish, saalaya has increased from Rs. 256 last year to Rs. 620 now. Chicken is a luxury for many families with Rs.500/per kg last year but now being sold for Rs. 1,400-Rs 1,500.

Some children are now giving up milk in their teacup. Photo by Eshan Fernando

Almost all varieties of rice cost 100% more. The price of dhal, green grams and chickpeas has doubled. Prices for vegetables and potatoes also increased.

Consultant medical nutritionist Dr Renuka Jayatissa said global food insecurity, the local forex crisis and the coming winter will mean a reduction in imported dry rations and animal feed.

“This problem will be there for a few years to come. Added to this is the upcoming monsoon season which will affect paddy and other crops. We must be prepared for difficult times ahead with many people forced to make do with a minimum diet,” she warned.

She said the state and families should ensure that children under the age of three receive the nutrition necessary for brain development.

“Grains, dairy products and proteins play a major role along with fruits and vegetables. Adolescents need nutrition as they enter adulthood,” Dr. Jayastissa said, asking families to avoid cutting back on nutrient-dense foods in the meals of pregnant women and the elderly.

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