About 98 per cent licensed suppliers and millers of Sunamganj failed to response to a government call to supply rice to food department this year.
Millers said they had to ignore the government order as the cultivation of boro rice, the only annual food crop in haor region, on about 2.2 lakh hectors of land had been washed away in a massive flood caused by heavy rain and onrush of hilly water across the border in March.
District food officers said the owners of only 6 out 270 rice mills in the district had signed agreements with the department for supplying rice with in May 31, the deadline for supplying food grains.
They (signatories) had agreed to supply only 190 tonnes of rice, including sundried and boiled, against the demand of 6,901 tonnes, which was the procurement target of the district food department this year, the sources said.
According to the directive issued by food ministry, the government would buy sundried rice at Tk 33 a kilogram and boiled rice at Tk 34 a kilogram this year.
The food ministry had set its target to collect 6,367 tonnes of sundried and 534 tonnes of boiled rice from Sunamganj and asked the local millers to sign agreements in this regard within May 31, but the millers had not shown any interest in the proposal, the sources said.
Talking to New Age, the district food controller Zakaria Mostafa said they had talked to the millers and tried to convince them for supplying food grains in order to make the government’s food grain procurement programme a success. ‘But, most of the millers did not response to our request,’ Zakaria said.
He said usually millers compete with each other to supply food gains to the food department, but this year they had been showing a different face.
‘The millers, who did not agree to deliver rice in this year, would not be allowed to supply food grains to the department in next two years,’ said the district food controller.
‘They should help the government when it is needed,’ he added.
Rasel Ahmad, owner of Rasel Auto Rice Mill at Mallikpur under sadar upazila in Sunamganj, told New Age that they had rejected the food department appeal it would not be possible for them to supply rice within a scheduled time to the department as farmers had no rice in their hands to sell out.
‘If we try to collect rice from neighbouring districts, prices of a kilogram rice would stand at Tk 42 to Tk 45, while the government had set the price at Tk 33-34 a kg,’ added Rasel Ahmad.
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