Coarse rice prices beat past records

It’s now Tk 55 a kg, govt resumes OMS of rice from Sunday

| Updated: October 24, 2017 05:45:34

Coarse rice prices beat past records

The rise in prices of coarse variety of rice surpassed all past records in the country on Thursday as it sold at Tk 55 a kg at the capital's retail markets.


This has added woes to consumers, already hit hard by soaring prices of essentials.


Lack of government drives against hoarding, official delay in easing import, its failure to make a strategic public food stock and a huge crop loss due to flooding are the key reasons behind persisting volatility in rice market, said market observers.


The recent hike in prices of rice by the Indian exporters has also been playing a key role in the surge, they said.


Coarse variety Swarna, BR-11 was sold at Tk 52-Tk 55, medium quality Brridhan-28, Paijam and Lata at Tk 56-Tk 58 and finer rice Miniket, Jeerashail and Najirshail at Tk 60-Tk 68 a kg on Thursday in the city retail markets. There has been Tk 5-Tk 7 hike in a week.


The wholesale prices also surged by Tk 3-Tk 4 a kg at Babubazar, Badamtoli, Mohammadpur Krishi Market, Malibagh, Karwan Bazar, Moulvibazar and Kochukhet wholesale markets in the city during the period, according to traders.


The state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) data showed rice prices soaring by 8.0 per cent to 12 per cent just in two days-between Wednesday and Thursday in city markets.


However, different rice prices are now 25 per cent to 50 per cent higher compared to those a year ago.


The current price of coarse variety is all-time high in the country, according to the food ministry data.


Mainul Sarker, a grocer at Jigatola Bazar in the city, said we have heard that the government has slashed import duty to just 2.0 per cent from previous 28 per cent which is not reflected in market prices.


He said rice prices witnessed Tk 03-04 hike per kg just in last two days at wholesale markets when imported products showed a steep price surge.


Sarwar Alam Kajol, a Naogaon-based importer, told the FE that Indian exporters are not delivering rice due to the upcoming Durga Puja festival to be celebrated from September 25.


"Thousands of Puja reception gates have been set up on linking roads in Indian parts where trucks hardly can pass through while extortion during the festival is also forcing exporters to halt trade for some days," he said.


He said, "We are not getting the staple even after offering US $480-$500 per tonne Swarna rice which was $380-$400 two weeks back."


He said despite giving 10 per cent duty, the import cost of coarse rice Swarna was Tk 36-Tk 37 a kg few weeks earlier but it is now Tk 44-Tk 46 a kg although the duty is now only 2.0 per cent.


The private sector imported a large quantity in last two and half months as nearly 0.55 million tonnes of rice entered the country in between July and September 05, he said.


Bangladesh Auto Major Husking Mill Owners Association secretary K M Layek Ali said production might have fallen by 3.0 million tonnes this Boro season due to flood.


He said following crop losses, many traders hoarded paddy to make some more profits.


He said prices of rice might ease within a few days if the government starts drives against hoarders.


However, food minister Quamrul Islam Thursday at a press conference blamed hoarding by a section of millers for recent rice market volatility.


He said the government is going to take stern action against those who will be found guilty for rice market upheaval.


The minister said the country has no crisis of rice now. He said despite the flood, the country produced 19.2 million tonnes of rice.


However, the open market sale is going to be started soon across the country, said the food ministry.


Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) secretary Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan said despite the commerce minister's repeated statements for taking action against hoarders, there is no visible drive so far in the market.


He said the government's import policy was not time- befitting as it failed to arrange imports in time despite a massive fall in domestic production.


He said consumers, especially the limited income ones, are feeling the heat of soaring commodity prices.


"Real income of the poor has been declining due to higher inflationary pressure," he said.


Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) senior research fellow Towfiqul Islam Khan said stock in public warehouses declined to record low this year as the government was unable to purchase rice both from international and domestic sources.


The rice purchase prices during the Boro season should have been raised by the government to make a strategic stock following the two spells of flooding, he said.


"The government-run statistical agencies should provide authentic data on rice production which is obligatory for framing a proper import policy," he said.


However, the public food stock had 0.461 tonnes of foodgrains on Thursday of which rice comprised 0.339 million tonnes. The rice stock was 0.65 million tonnes in the corresponding period of last year.


According to another FE report: The government announced to on Thursday resume open market sale (OMS) of rice on Sunday next.


It will also start selling rice at Tk 10 per kilogram to the ultra poor under a 'food-friendly' programme across the country on Wednesday next, Food Minister Advocate Md Qamrul Islam told a press briefing at his ministry.


He said that vested interest groups were hatching conspiracy over the price of rice just to destabilise the government. Rice prices of all varieties went up recently in the local market, despite substantial imports.


He said the country has a food grain stock of around 1.0 million tonnes at the public silos.


The OMS will be available at all the district and divisional towns, he added.


The minister said the food-friendly programme was scheduled to start from September 1, but delayed due to distribution problems at the silos. Now, it would continue for next three months.


Earlier, the government had set a target to distribute rice among five million ultra poor families at a rate of Tk 10 per kg. Each of the families is entitled to get 30-kg of rice.


Mr Islam said the government will import 1.5 million tonnes of rice and 0.5 million tonnes of wheat during the current fiscal year as a pre-cautionary measure to face any crisis.


According to a UNB report, the minister asked the owners of rice mills and businesspeople to stop doing politics over the rice.


"Some people are involved in creating an artificial rice crisis to embarrass the government," he said.


Issuing a note of warning to rice millers, he said: "Still, there's time. Stop doing politics over the issue."


A meeting is scheduled to be held with the mill owners and traders on Tuesday next over the issue.


Besides, he asked the media people to stop reporting on rice price hike which creates confusion among the people.


This year, the government has set a target to produce 1.91 crore metric tons of Boro paddy, but 2.0 million metric tons of rice have been damaged by the recent floods in the haor areas of the country, which creates an unusual situation in the rice market, he added.

However, some 0.6 million tonnes of rice has been imported from India under private arrangement.


The food minister said the government has imported 0.25 million tonnes of rice from Vietnam, of which 0.154 million tonnes have already been unloaded.


Besides, the process of importing 0.25 million tonnes of rice from Cambodia was underway, he said.


Responding to a question over India's ban on rice export to Bangladesh, Qamrul said, "I've found no authenticity of the news after talking to the High Commission concerned."


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