The prices of rice have started to increase further in the city though the government sees a surplus of the staple food after meeting the domestic demand.
The rice prices have remained high since June, just after the bumper production of the Boro paddy, and the fresh hike would hurt the fixed-income people as a good number of city dwellers have lost their income due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts said that the country’s rice prices remained unusually high for the last few months as a section of profit mongers were manipulating the market amid the flood that affected 33 of the country’s 64 districts after the harvest of the major Boro crop.
They said that the government should be deeply concerned as to why the consumers were not getting the benefit of the surplus production.
Food minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder, however, said that the prime minister approved the summary of his ministry for importing rice to keep the prices stable.
The prices of rice went up by Tk 2 a kilogram over the last one week on the city market.
Retailers said that the prices of rice increased by Tk 100 per bag of 50 kilograms on the wholesale market while wholesalers said that the rice mill owners raised the prices after Eid-ul Azha.
The standard BR-28 variety of rice was selling for Tk 50 a kg while the fine variety for Tk 52–54 a kg in the capital on Thursday.
The standard Miniket variety was selling for Tk 56–68 while the fine variety was for Tk 60–65 a kg on the day.
Amid the rising prices of the staple food the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute in a report on Sunday said that there would be more than 55 lakh tonnes of surplus rice after meeting the local demand at the end of November this year.
BRRI director general Md Shahjahan Kabir in a virtual meeting said that there would be no shortage of food in the country as the harvest of the Aus paddy was going on and the Aman crop would start coming to the market from November.
Agro-economist and former Jahangirnagar University vice-chancellor Abdul Bayes told New Age that the price hike of rice at this time would hurt consumers as many people lost their income due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Growers should benefit from price hikes of rice, he said, adding, ‘But in Bangladesh farmers get the highest 40 per cent of the price while traders and rice mill owners the rest.’
Abdul Bayes said that the government should be seriously concerned as to why the growers did not get the benefit of rice price hikes.
‘Strong market monitoring by the government is needed so that there is no further price hike increasing the woes of people already affected by the COVID-19 fallout,’ he said.
‘Despite having the surplus output the price hike of rice is unusual. It calls for a keen inquery to find out the reasons for the unusual price hike. But I think a dishonest quarter is manipulating the market,’ former president of Consumer Association of Bangladesh Ghulam Rahman told New Age on Thursday.
He said that due to the lack of legal actions a quarter of profit mongers had been creating instability in the rice market for long.
Ghulam Rahman said that the prices of rice increased but the growers were not getting the benefit of the high prices.
He said that the government plan to import rice was appropriate as it was important to keep the market stable during the pandemic.
Amid the continuous rice price hike, the food ministry in July announced that the government was thinking of importing the staple to keep the market price stable.
There was 10.21 lakh tonnes of rice in the government stock as of August 11, the food ministry official data shows.
Food minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder on Thursday told New Age that the prime minister had already approved the proposal for importing rice.
‘Now we are working on the import quantity and procedure. We are discussing the government-to-government procedure, slashing duties and doing away with international tendering,’ he said.
He also said that they asked the BRRI to provide authentic information to the ministry on the production and stock of paddy in the country.
‘We are collecting information about the stock as the BRRI claimed that 29 per cent of the boro paddy remained in the stock of growers,’ Sadhan Chandra said.
After scrutinising all the information, the government would finalise when and how much rice would be imported. KM Layek Ali, secretary general of Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mill Owners Association, said that the prices of rice increased a little bit as a supply shortage of the staple food occurred in the market.
He said that the production in most of the husking mills remained suspended for the last few days due to the bad weather and flood in a large part of the country.
Layek Ali said that the country’s husking mills produced 60 per cent of the total rice while the auto mills produced the rest 40 per cent.
The rice prices also increased as some of the big farmers hoarded the item to reap higher prices, he said.
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