The prices of rice showed no sign of decreasing even after the country began harvesting its second major rice crop, Aman, amid record import of the staple.
Both at wholesale and retail market, the prices of various rice types, compared to the previous year, were 20 to 30 per cent higher.
The prices shot up last year after intense rain and flooding hit rice cultivation. The government expected to control prices through import, but there has so far been no significant impact on it. The government has imported 2.38 million tonnes in current fiscal, which is the highest in recorded history.
Still, it could hardly help the situation as according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh’s latest estimate, coarse rice sells between Tk 44 and Tk 46 per kg, which was sold at between Tk 35 and Tk 38 before the sudden price spiral.
Medium quality rice was being sold between Tk 48 and Tk 56, which was sold between Tk 40 and Tk 45 a year ago.
Prices of fine rice varieties Najirshail and Miniket increased by about 2 per cent over the last month. It was selling between Tk 64 and Tk 68 per kg, although it was sold between Tk 48 and Tk 56 a year ago, according to TCB.
‘It seems nobody was there to look after the interest of consumers,’ said Mofizur Rahman, a government service holder, while buying rice from Karwan Bazar kitchen market on Friday.
‘The price only keeps rising whereas it was expected to come down once the harvesting of Aman began,’ he added.
Rice retailers said that the price did not come down due to a low production of Aman. Foggy weather also hampered drying of harvested rice causing a fall in the supply, they added.
Secretary of Bangladesh Auto Major Husking Mill Owners Association (BAMHMOA) KM Layek Ali could not provide any reasons for the high price while claiming that the prices were falling at wholesale market. He claimed that the price of coarse variety Swarna fell by Tk 60 to Tk 70 per maund over last few weeks.
‘There was a deficit of about two million tonnes in Aman production, but the deficit was met up through import,’ said Layek Ali.
‘It clearly indicates price manipulation and I want to know who are involved in this manipulation,’ said Layek.
Agricultural economist Jahangir Alam Khan said that there was no shortage of rice in the country and there was no reason for rice price to maintain an upward trend.
The high rice price once again reflects that the government could hardly intervene in the rice market which was vulnerable to price manipulation, he said.
The government would not be able to take control of the situation unless it manages to build up an adequate rice stock, he added.
According to him, the adequate rice stock would be around 1 million tonnes.
Director General of the Directorate General of Food, M Badrul Hasan, told journalists that the stock stood at 0.58 million tonnes in mid January.
According to him, the government decided to procure 0.3 million tonnes from the millers and 1.2 million tonnes would be imported.
The Consumers Association of Bangladesh president Ghulam Rahman said the government failed to manage the rice market.
The government has increased its procuring price per kg of Aman to Tk 39 kg from Tk 35 kg, sending a message to rice businessmen that they could charge a higher price for rice, said Rahman.
A Centre for Policy Dialogue research revealed last year that flash-floods caused an approximate loss of 1.53 million tonnes of rice worth Tk 53 billion during the Boro season. Later a flood in monsoon damaged nine per cent cropland, eventually causing rice price to rise in phases.
A South Asian Network on Economic Modelling study in late December last year revealed that over half a million people fell into poverty due to the increase in rice price.
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