Consumers, especially the poor and low-income groups, are badly affected by abnormal price hike of rice over few months across the country.
The price of rice has abruptly increased since mid-April mainly because of early rainfall and floods that destroyed boro crops in haor belt and Chalan Bil, areas, agricultural economists and food and agriculture officials.
The shortfall in the government food stocks has worsened food crisis triggering price hike of rice abnormally by about Tk 20 per kilogram, they said.
Agricultural economists said that the crisis was created due to failure of the government food management as it could not foresee the damage of crops and its consequence.
BR 28 rice sells for Tk 54-56 per kg while Miniket sells for Tk 58-62 per kg at retail market.
According to Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, however, the coarse rice sells for Tk 46-48 and Miniket sells for Tk 56-58 per kg.
Consumers said that the price of coarse rice was Tk 34-36 per kg three months ago.
School-van driver Shafik Mia, who lives at Kamrangirchar in Dhaka with a five-member family, said that he was severely affected by the price hike of rice.
‘I need 3kg rice daily for which I am paying additional price of Tk 60 daily,’ he said.
Shafik said that he failed to meet the requirement of foods for his family with his monthly income of Tk 8,000.
According to food department, the total government stock reduced to 4.95 lakh tones, including 1.91 lakh tonnes of rice and 3.04 lakh tonnes of wheat, as on June 13.
Asked about price hike of rice and shortfall of stock, food department additional
director general Abdul Halim declined to comment.
Food department officials said that speculations on the damage of crops in floods caused the price hike of the staple.
Due to the price hike, the government failed to complete the signing of contracts with millers resulting in virtually zero procurement of boro rice from the domestic market during the season, they said.
Agricultural economist Jahangir Alam Khan, also former Bangladesh Agricultural Economists Association president, said that heavy early rain, flash flood and blast disease caused severe damage to boro crops resulting in production shortfall in the current year.
As the government did not have sufficient amount of food grain in its stock at the moment, it could not intervene in local markets with Open Market Sale of rice to contain the price hike, he said.
Due to government’s food management failure, it failed to increase food stock importing rice from international markets where the price was lower than that in Bangladesh, he said.
Jahangir Alam said that the import duty fixed by the government should not be kept static rather it must be used for the benefit of the ordinary people.
He said that proper estimation of the country’s food production and requirement was urgently needed as the government’s tendency was to show food surplus, a ‘complacence of the government.’
He observed that there was much deficit of food in Bangladesh and it should be filled in by the importing rice from international markets.
Many of the farmers who grow rice also buy the staple for six months as most of the farmers in Bangladesh are deficit farmers, said Jahangir Alam.
Bangladesh Agriculture University agricultural finance professor Golam Hafiz Kennedy said that the government must change its procurement policy as the government stock declined significantly this year.
‘The government will have to increase procurement price of rice or import rice from other countries to overcome the current situation,’ he said.
Former Bangabandhu Agricultural University agronomy professor Abdul Hamid said that the price hike over the past few months severely affected the common people as it was unexpected.
‘Although high price of rice is good for the farmers, they can never get the high price,’ he said, adding that the government system benefited millers not the growers.
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