RICE prices worryingly continue to show an upward trend. As New Age reported on Tuesday, the price of coarse rice has already increased by Tk 8 a kilogram in the capital’s retail outlets while prices of BR-28 and BR-29 increased by Tk 6 a kilogram. Also, a kilogram of miniket, a fine variety of rice, sells for Tk 52, which sold for Tk 45 even three weeks ago. The increase in the prices of the staple certainly adds to the hardship of people belonging to the fixed- and low-income groups, in particular, who have been struggling hard to make ends meet ever since the Awami League government assumed office in 2009. The prices of all essential commodities, coupled with house rents and different utility bills, increased manifold in the period while their genuine income either declined or did not keep pace with rise in the overall living cost. It is important to note that majority families in the capital and elsewhere earn less than Tk 10,000 a month and more than half of the income is spent on food, mostly rice.
Reports are there that it is mainly millers who are behind the recent rice price increase. Rice growers, particularly the small and medium ones, have already sold their stocks of the staple to millers who, as experiences say, have a tendency to establish their control over the price of the item through syndication. At the same time, because of the recent flooding that badly affected farmers in at least 16 districts, many of which are known as rice bowls of the country, the aman cultivation, the second largest cereal crop of the country, has significantly been delayed which castes an uncertainty over the timely availability of aman rice on the local market. Allegations have it that all this has fuelled the tendency of the millers to hoard the item. What is more regrettable is that there is a lack of market monitoring on part of the government. Nor is there any similar measure from business leaders who have never failed to miss any opportunity, in the past few years, to promise, at least before media, that they would strictly monitor different markets to prevent any effort to increase essential commodity prices. Meanwhile, as a former president of the Bangladesh Agricultural Economists’ Association pointed out, the total rice production in the past year was sufficient for feeding the entire population and the government stocks of rice are also satisfactory.
The overall situation reinforces our concern mentioned in these columns on several occasions so far in a similar situation that it is not the supply shortage of the item but the flawed market mechanism prevalent for long in the country which is responsible for the rice prices increase. Unfortunately, however, to prove its apparent bias for millers who are largely reported to have connections with the ruling party, the government still appears to be indifferent to the situation. The government needs to realise that any further delay in taking effective steps to control rice prices will not only add to consumers’ sufferings but may also cause it to face public backlash.
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