Negligence in market management blamed
Golam Mostafa Jibon: Though, the Agriculture Ministry claimed that there is record production of rice in the country, the Food Ministry is also unwilling to comply with it as people are not getting benefits as per the claim.
But, both the ministries blamed negligence in market management for such instability in the rice market.
The exact figures for rice do not match as different organizations are providing different types of information over the rice stock, production and import.The Ministry of Agriculture claimed record production, while Food Ministry is not abiding by it. Another government agency-the Bureau of Statistics (BBS) is providing another piece of information long after the season. As a result, these figures on paper create instability in the market that leads immense suffering to the consumers.
To save the consumers, the government has to decide to import rice in the public-private sector. To overcome this instability in the rice market and ensure food security, the government has allowed the private sector to import 1.8 million tons of rice in a phased manner. Such instability is mainly due to the inability to procure paddy and rice at the right time, market mismanagement, manipulation of millers, sources said.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, a new record has been set in production during this year’s Boro season.
Around 2,07,84,508 metric tons of Boro paddy has been produced, which is the highest ever. Besides, the yield has also increased compared to the previous years. Last year, the national average yield of Boro paddy in the country was 3.97 tons per hectare. This year, it has increased to 4.29 tons.
In other words, the production per hectare has increased by 32 tons, which is 8.0 percent more than last year. Last year, the production was 1.96 tons.
The Ministry of Food said, the information provided by the Ministry of Agriculture is not correct. The government agency said, the reason is that the number of people in the country has increased. With that, the consumption of rice has increased. There are 20,000 millers in auto and husking mills across the country. An unscrupulous cycle is syndicated and manipulated. But, the price is supposed to go down after the stipulated time. The price of rice has been rising for a long time. The Ministry of Food is blaming Agricultural Ministry for the situation.
Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum, Secretary of the Ministry of Food said,”The import of rice was allowed to ensure the safety of farmers and food security. But, the price of rice has gone up during the corona pandemic causing immense suffering to the ordinary consumers. Therefore, the government has allowed the import of rice.”
When asked why they had to import even after record production, she said, “We don’t have accurate statistics on rice as each organization is providing different types of information. The Ministry of Agriculture is giving one statistic, while the Bureau of Statistics is providing another statistic. On the other hand, the research institute is giving another kind of statistics. All in all, several types of statistics have been created here.”
“If there were accurate statistics, the rice market would not be like this, she said, adding that there are 20,000 millers in the country. If there is sufficient supply compared to the demand, the market price should remain normal. The main thing is that, this problem has been created in the market due to lack of accurate statistics. Considering the interests of the consumer, we have allowed the import,” she added.
Concerned people said that, if the government institutions had fulfilled their responsibilities at the right time, there would not have been an opportunity for rice crisis in the country.
The estimate of Agricultural Ministry over paddy production was wrong. The government failed to achieve the food procurement target as the Ministry of Food kept the prices of paddy and rice lower than the cost of production. But at that time, the price of paddy was higher in the open market. As a result, the millers did not agree to give rice at the price fixed by the government. The government did not even take the initiative to buy directly from the farmers. In this situation, the government got a forecast of rice crisis.
To meet the demand, the Prime Minister’s Office itself gave the green signal to the Food Ministry to import rice. There have been many delays in the liaison action of the Ministry of Commerce in this regard. Besides, there are allegations of weak supervision against the ministry in controlling the prices of rice and other daily commodities. There are also allegations of delay in import of rice by the importers with the registration of import. Import permission has to be given for record production.
While contacted, Khandaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director of the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a private research organization said, “The government’s permission to import rice is positive to keep the market stable. At present, the government has allowed the import of 1.7 million tons of rice in the private sector, which provides 15 to 20 days. In this moment the government has 1.5 million tons of rice in stock. During the corona pandemic, the government increased the activities of OMS. Due to which, more rice is required every day than before. OMS activities should be further enhanced to meet the crisis during the pandemic, in which, low-income people are benefited. However, there is a managerial weakness in the market. Everyone has to come out of it. The biggest issue is that, there is no alternative to increasing supply to alleviate the instability in the rice market.
Millers said, the government has decided to buy 1 million tons of boiled rice from millers at Tk 40 per Kg, 1.5 lakh tons of Atap rice at Tk 39 per Kg and 6.5 lakh tons of paddy from farmers at Tk 29 per Kg during the outgoing Boro season. Due to the high price of rice in the market at that time, it was not possible to achieve the target of rice procurement. AKM Khurshid Alam Khan, President of the Auto Rice Mill Owners Associationsaid, “The price set by the government for rice procurement was much lower than the market price. Due to which, the farmers were not interested in giving rice to the government. Millers are blamed for instability in the rice market.”
“We have repeatedly requested that the production cost of paddy should be reduced. As a result, farmers will also benefit from lower production costs and consumers will be able to buy rice at lower prices,” he added.
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