Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Sunday said that rice import would be restricted for saving the country’s farmers deprived of fair prices for paddy.
He also said that incentives would be given to encourage export of rice to ensure fair prices of the crop in the local market.
The finance minister made the comments at a pre-budget discussion on agriculture with Shykh Seraj, a TV personality and agricultural activist, at the Planning Commission.
The comments by Mustafa Kamal came against the backdrop of farmers across the country protesting at falling paddy prices.
A farmer in Tangail even torched his paddy field to attract the attention of the government. Not only the government has not set the price of 40 kgs of paddy at Tk 1,040, demanded by the farmers, they are not even getting back the production cost of Tk 800 for 40 kgs of the crop.
They are forced to sell 40 kgs of paddy at Tk 500 and incur a loss of Tk 300.
Amid a bumper harvest and the falling prices of the crop this season, rice import by both the government and private sector are still on.
The food ministry’s import data shows that more than 2 lakh tonnes of rice were imported till May 9 from July 1 while the private sector brought in 1.3 lakh tonnes.
The current duty on rice import is 28 per cent.
Mustafa kamal hinted at increasing the duty in the coming budget as he noted that the rice import could not be banned. ‘What we can do is restrict its import,’ he said.
He noted that the sufferings of the farmers would be solved through fiscal incentives and monetary measures.
Mustafa Kamal said the export of vegetables from the country has substantially increased because the government provides subsidy for the exports. He said the government should encourage exports of not only vegetables but also those agricultural crops that are grown in abundance.
The farmers would get fare prices when there would be a right balance between the production and the supply, he added.
Shykh Seraj, however, suggested that the government should procure paddy and rice directly from farmers instead of collecting them from millers.
He also suggested introduction of crop insurance policy, streamlining marketing of agricultural outputs, strengthening the state-owned seed supplying agency and waiver of the duty on import of agricultural machineries.
The finance minister said he is planning to introduce crop insurance in haor areas on a pilot basis from the next fiscal year and to encourage use of machineries to grow cost effective agricultural products.
Presently the government does not get much duty from the import of farm machineries, he noted.