The sudden jump in the rice price of the government’s open market sale programme has dealt a blow to many ultra-poor farmers in the flash-flood-hit Sunamganj, forcing many of them to go back empty-handed, without buying the coarse rice from the OMS points on Sunday and Monday.
The food ministry has doubled the OMS price of rice, with effect from Sunday, from the previous Tk 15 a kilogram citing hike in market price of the staple, food ministry officials say.
The government launched the OMS of rice and flour at Tk 15 and Tk 17 a kg respectively on April 9 at 110 spots in Sunamganj as part of its food support to the poor farmers hit hard by flash flood.
Standing boro paddy, the only annual crop in the country’s haor belt, was massively damaged by the untimely flood caused by the incessant rainfall and onrush of hilly water from the upstream region of India in late March.
However, the OMS of rice at other parts of the country began on Sunday.
A person can buy five kilogram of rice or flour each day from the sale points under the programme.
Local sources said that the poor consumers across the district expressed their angry reaction both on Sunday and Monday against the doubling of the price of the OMS rice since they had bought the rice on Friday at Tk 15 a kg from the spots which remain closed on every Saturday.
‘Many of the clients have gone back home without buying the rice while many bought half the amount they are allotted as they did not have enough money,’ Shankar Hrishi of village Kalakandi at Shalla upazila said.
Local OMS point dealer Bishwajit Chowdhury Nantu told New Age that most of the buyers did not trust him on Sunday after hearing that the price of OMS rice had been doubled.
‘A number of people also ran to the upazila officials concerned to be confirmed that the price of OMS rice had really been increased by Tk 15 against a kilogram,’ Nantu said.
Sukanta Shekhar Talukder of village Anwarpur at Tahirpur upazila told New Age, ‘The market price of this rice, which is being sold now at Tk 30 a kg under the OMS programme, is higher only by Tk 5-7.’
‘I will not go any further to purchase the rice from the OMS point,’ aggrieved Sukanta said on Sunday afternoon.
Mentioning that the price of coarse rice in the wholesale market also increased Tk 4-5 in two days, Rafiqul Islam, owner of a grocery shop at Traffic Point in the Sunamganj town, asked, ‘Why will not the hoarders increase the prices, when the government can
suddenly double the price of the OMS rice, which is consumed only by the poor and low-income group people?’
When contacted, the district food controller Zakaria Mostafa told New Age that he came to know about increasing the price of OMS rice on Saturday evening.
‘The ministry concerned has made the decision and we were not informed earlier in this regard,’ he added.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, standing boro paddy of 1,66,612 hector out of a total 2,23,082 hector wetlands in the district was damaged by the early flash flood in late March that affected 3.5 lakh farmer families.
Organisations of the farmers and rights activists have claimed the extent of damage would be more than 90 percent of the standing boro.
Besides, around 50,000 fishermen also were affected following the fish mortality in the major wetlands and water bodies in the district in mid-April.
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