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Bangladesh - April 10, 2023

Relief in rice supply discomfort in price

Mahfuz Emran: In the last few seasons, there has been bumper rice production in the country. In the last financial year (2021-22), the total production of rice in the country exceeded the all-time record. On the other hand, there is a record amount of food stock in government warehouses. At the same time, a lot of rice has come from abroad as the opportunity to import rice without duty has been maintained. All in all, the stock of rice at all levels, both public and private, is now at a comfortable level. Supplies are plentiful. Still, the price of rice in the country’s market has not decreased. Instead, common people have to eat at the highest price ever.
The information of Trading Corporation of Bangladesh-TCB says that although the price of rice has not increased in the market recently, the price of coarse rice has increased by 3.23 percent and the price of fine rice by 3.85 percent in the last one year. And market data says that per kg of coarse rice has now crossed Tk 50, which is the highest ever. Rice has been stuck at this price for several months. Besides, one has to count from Tk 70 to 85 to buy thin rice per kg.
Whereas the information of the Ministry of Agriculture says that in the last three seasons (Eri, Aush and Aman) a total of 4 crore 4 lakh tonnes of rice has been produced in the country, which is a record of production in a year. Rice production in the country has increased by 29 percent in the last 14 years.
According to the Ministry of Food, currently the amount of food grain stock in government warehouses is 19 lakh 20 thousand tons. Among them, the stock of paddy and rice is about 1.5 million tons, which has almost touched the record production of the country. Last year the government stock was 20 lakh 7 thousand tons. Earlier, the government’s record stock was 19 lakh 75 thousand 638 tonnes in October 2019.
Again, the duty-free rice import period was till March 31. At that time, there was no duty to pay on the import of rice. Apart from this, regulatory duty has to be paid at 5 percent instead of 25 percent. 10 lakh 53 thousand tons of rice has been imported in the country till March 29 in this facility. LC and pipeline have more or less equal amount of rice.
According to the government, the demand is met only if there is approximately 3.5 million tons of rice in the country annually. There should be a surplus of 50 to 70 million tons of rice if we take into account the supply. But the reality is different. The excuse of rice shortage has become our routine when we go to the market.
In this regard, agricultural researcher and economist Jahangir Alam Khan told, “The information provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Agricultural Extension under it on production often does not match. Again, the information given by Bhog is inconsistent.
He said, “If there is usually so much rice, what is the need to import with duty exemption?” Where does the extra rice go? These things are never clear, which traders take advantage of. The government is weak in controlling the market.
Former research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) M. Asaduzzaman told, “There is a discrepancy in the data related to food in the country. It is also a plus that we are self-sufficient in grains. We are leaving. But that is through crisis. About 2 million tons of rice is being imported every year, otherwise we cannot have it. Again, production exceeds demand. Then there should clearly be rice surplus. Where is that?’
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the daily per capita consumption of rice in the country is 416 grams. According to this, annual consumption of rice per person is 152 kg. In that case, the total annual demand of rice in the country is 2 crore 58 lakh 40 thousand tons. This rice account of the Bureau of Statistics is for the year 2019. At that time, the organization calculated the population of the country as 17 crores.
According to the same source, considering the country’s population, the demand for rice is 3 crore 10 lakh tons.
According to the same source, considering the country’s population, the demand for rice is 3 crore 10 lakh tons. If another 15 percent is added as seeds, waste and fodder, the total demand stands at 3 crore 56 lakh tonnes.
The owners of rice mills have been repeatedly claiming that none of these accounts of rice are correct. According to them, whatever the statistics show, the country still has a shortage of rice in reality.
In this regard, General Secretary of Rice Mill Owners Association, Laik Ali told, “We have to import due to shortage.” Where does the rice go if there is a surplus? Surely no one keeps stock of rice year after year in this high-priced market.
Why is the price of rice not falling? In response to such a question, he said, ‘Rice is being sold at a much higher price in the retail market than the price at which rice is being sold at the mill. They have no control. The price of rice has decreased in the last few months. But the market did not decrease. The government has not taken any action in this regard.
Meanwhile, the government is ensuring the accountability of traders to control the supply-stock situation of rice in the country. Recently, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumdar told the media about such an initiative.
He said, ‘No one can do rice business in the country without a license. To do this, he must have a food grain license. Dealers must also have this license. 15 consecutive days how much he bought, how much he sold – his return has to be filed. This system will be launched soon.
The minister also said that there is no shortage of rice in the country. By creating an artificial crisis, prices are inflated. When the government supervises, when meetings are held with traders, the price of rice falls, then rises again. Even if Tk 5 increase during the increase, it does not decrease in the same way during the decrease. The traders say that the price of rice has decreased by one taka.

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