NO SIGN of decline in rice prices even after the harvest of the aman began amidst record import of rice remains worrisome. Rice prices shot up in 2017 after heavy rainfall and flooding that had an adverse impact on rice farming. The government is reported to have imported 2.38 million tonnes of rice in the current financial year, said to be the highest keeping to the statistics since 1987 that are available. Yet, this could, as the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh says, hardly change the price situation. The coarse variety of rice, which sold for prices between Tk 35 and Tk 38, now sells for prices between Tk 44 and Tk 46 a kilogram. The medium variety, which sold for prices between Tk 40 and Tk 45, now sells for prices between Tk 48 and Tk 56 while the fine variety, which sold for prices between Tk 48 and Tk 56, now sells for prices between Tk 64 and Tk 68 a kilogram. With the situation continuing for quite some time — the rice import and the harvest of aman failing to create the expected impact on the market, it has left consumers to believe that there has been no one to look after the interest of consumers.
While retailers put the situation down to the low outturn of aman and foggy weather which hampered the drying of the rice that has been harvested, husking mill owners could give out no reason for such high prices as they claim the prices, mainly of the coarse varieties, to have declined on the wholesale market, especially over the past few weeks. The situation as it stands reeks of market manipulation, which the government seems to have failed to stem. While experts say that rice has not been in short supply and there are, therefore, no reasons for prices to keep going up, consumer rights campaigners say that the government has failures in rice market management. As the government has not been able to adequately intervene into the market, rice prices have remained vulnerable to manipulation. This was compounded by the poor stock of rice, which stood at 0.58 million tonnes, as the Directorate General of Food says, in the middle of January. Experts think that the stock should have more than a million tonnes of rice to cushion off any trouble. Rights campaigners also blamed the government’s injudicious move of increasing the procurement price, of aman at Tk 39 from Tk 35 a kilogram, when the rice prices have already been high. This is thought to have sent out a wrong signal for the traders that prompted them to increase prices.
If any of these propositions discussed and debated proves to be true, what it gets down to, in the end, is the government’s failure in rice market oversight and management, and policy and procedural flaws. The government, under the circumstances, must immediately set issues, which have
so far been on the wrong track, right to prove its commitment to the citizens.
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