With the rice imported from neighbouring India selling at lower prices, the demand for the local varieties is on the decline, pushing 600 rice mills into closure in the district, said rice mills owners.
The millers had taken loan of around Tk 500 crore from different banks and financial institutions for their businesses, but could not repay the loans due to unwanted fall in demand for local varieties of rice, they said.
Talking to UNB, millers said there were a total of 1,800 rice mills in the district. Of them, some 600 have already been closed and 300 are facing shutdown.
Leaders of district Rice Mills Owners’ Association gave a memorandum to the commerce minister through the deputy commissioner of the district after organising a press conference in Alupotti area in the district town recently.
At the press conference, the millers disclosed the information and narrated their sufferings blaming the ‘unnecessary import’ of rice from the neighbouring country.
The millers urged the authorities concerned to immediately stop rice import to save the industry.
They also requested the banks and financial institutions to bring down the interest rate of lending to nine per cent in accordance with the government decision.
Rafiqul Islam, president of district Rice Mills Owners’ Association, said the country experienced food shortage due to natural disaster last year.
‘Then the government slashed the rice import duty to only two per cent from 10 per cent, opening up doors for the importers to bring huge quantity of rice,’ he said.
The government set nine per cent bank interest for loans for industries, but the local banks are still charging 12 to 14 per cent interest from the rice mill owners, the millers alleged.
Although the farmers across the country have achieved a bumper yield of rice this year and have been able to stock enough rice, the government is still continuing rice import from India, said Rafiqul Islam.
As a result, around 80 per cent of rice mills have already been closed here, causing huge losses to rice mills owners and employees, he said.
‘Rice growers are also incurring losses due to decline in demand for locally produced rice,’ the leader added.
When contacted, district food officer Md Abdus Salam said the information over closure of 80 per cent mills was not accurate.
‘Except the automatic rice mills, a section of mill owners do seasonal businesses and keep their mills closed other time,’ he added.