The Milk Importers’ Association said they were told by the authorities that foreign exchange would be released to three banks – Standard Chartered, NDB and HNB – to pay for the stocks bought three months ago on deferred payment terms.
‘We need to pay for what we imported three months ago for us to get the new stocks cleared from the port,” the association’s spokesman Lakshman Weerasuriya said.
He said a Thursday deadline to release forex was breached, but they were still hopeful that the money would be released by the weekend.
“If we are unable to get the money, we have no choice but to divert the stocks to another country,” Weerasuriya said.
He said the inability to pay the supplier on time meant accumulated demurrage and other charges to the shipping companies that would drive up the price of milk when it is eventually cleared from the Colombo port.
“With a maximum retail price in place, we can’t factor the additional costs into the final retail price,” he said, adding that they were already losing money on the milk powder cargo held up at the port.
Long queues were seen outside state-run stores selling locally-made milk powder.