Consumers' response to white OMS rice poor

| Updated: October 24, 2017 01:46:43

A consumer checks the quality of rice put on sale at Jurain in Old Dhaka as the open-market sale (OMS) began across the country on Sunday.— FE Photo by Shafiqul Alam A consumer checks the quality of rice put on sale at Jurain in Old Dhaka as the open-market sale (OMS) began across the country on Sunday.— FE Photo by Shafiqul Alam

Open market sale (OMS) of rice launched by the government across the country on Sunday could hardly attract any large number of buyers in the capital mainly due to supply of non-parboiled rice.


The government launched the special OMS programme in the wake of a continuous surge in prices of rice in the domestic market.


Coarse rice was selling at Tk 52-Tk 55, medium quality at Tk 56-Tk 60 and finer rice at Tk 62-Tk 70 a kilogram (kg) in the capital for the last five days---an all-time high price, according to trading sources.


Bangladeshis usually consume parboiled (sheddho) rice. But the government has been distributing imported rice, most of which are white rice. So, it failed to attract customers, OMS dealers said.


Though the price of OMS rice has been fixed at Tk. 30 per kg there was thin presence of buyers before four OMS trucks -- one each at Mohammadpur, Hazaribagh, Dayaganj and Jurain -- that this scribe visited on the day.


A total of 806 OMS trucks were deployed across the country, including 109 in the capital. Each of the dealers got one tonne of rice and flour (aata) for distribution.


Ms Shahina Begum, a resident at Bashbari Slum in Mohammadpur, came to Katasur OMS shop to collect rice.


She told the FE that non-parboiled coarse rice (Ataap) was being sold at the trucks. "But we are not used to consumption of white rice", she said.


White rice becomes sticky when boiled and none in our family likes to consume it, she said.


Md Mursalin, a shoemaker, went to collect only aata (flour) from the OMS truck stationed at Lalmatia.


"Family members will eat parboiled rice in a lesser volume rather than consuming ataap rice as meal," he said.


However, Mursalin and many others claimed that OMS dealers were giving aata on the condition that one would have to buy rice also.


The OMS truck at Dayaganj could attract only 72 consumers and sold 360 kgs of rice on Sunday against allocation of 1,000 kgs.


Tariqul Islam, dealer of the OMS truck, said people consume parboiled rice in the country.


"Rice, delivered by the food directorate, is 'coarse ataap' which is attracting a small number of consumers," he said.


However, market observers and food directorate officials said the number of customers will increase in the coming days as many were yet to get information about the OMS operation.


Kazi Nurul Islam, director (supply, distribution and marketing) of the directorate general of food (DGoF), said they could procure only 0.25 million tonnes of rice from the domestic market in the Boro season against the procurement target of 0.8 million tonnes.


The government has imported rice on an urgent basis from Vietnam following the two spells of floods that had caused loss of rice crops in the country, he said.


He said East Asian countries usually consume and trade white rice (non-parboiled).


The DGoF director said most of rice, which will be imported in the coming days, from Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, would also be non-parboiled.


A total of 1.5 million tonnes of rice will be imported from these countries, he said.


The number of customers was lesser on Sunday as many were yet to know about the programme. "It will increase in the coming days," he added.


Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) additional director (research) Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem said it is positive that the government has started the OMS programme.


He said the government's food stock should be maximised as soon as possible to avert any kind of shortage.


But in importing rice, the government should also take into cognizance the food habit of the people, he said.


He also felt that the number of people in front of the OMS trucks will increase if the current market prices of rice persist.


However, the government on Sunday asked deputy commissioners (DCs) to take legal action against rice hoarders amid the price spiral of the staple in the country.


"We have given directives to deputy commissioners (DCs) and police for arresting people involved in rice hoarding illegally," Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed told the media after meeting with auto rice millers' association at the Bangladesh Secretariat.


Food Minister Advocate Md Qamrul Islam was also present.


The commerce minister said, "The prices of rice have been increasing due to illegal hoarding of rice. That's why we will take action against them (rice hoarders)."


In the meeting, he wanted to know from the millers about the stock of rice at godowns in different places of the country.


At one stage of discussion, the names of Bangladesh Rice Mills Association president Abdur Rashid and its general secretary Layek Ali came up at the meeting.


Abdur Rashid lives in Kushtia and he has rice mills and godowns in Kushtia and Naogaon.


The law enforcement agencies have raided his rice godown recently and found an additional amount of rice there. He was fined Tk 50,000 for hoarding rice.


The commerce minister came to know the matter and instantly talked to the DC of Naogaon and additional deputy commissioner of Kushtia over phone. He also expressed resentment how a person got released by paying only Tk 50,000 in fines.


"He was supposed to be arrested for hoarding rice illegally as he committed crime. Right now, you (DC and ADC of Kushita and Naogaon) start drive against his godowns and confiscate rice and paddy and arrest him," he said.


Mr Ahmed said the district administrations and law enforcement agencies will carry out raid on rice godowns across the country and arrest rice hoarders.


He said they (a section of rice millers) have spread rumours and artificially increased rice prices to serve their petty interests.


"Abdur Rashid and Layek Ali are involved with BNP politics. They are conspiring to destabilise the government," he said.


Mr Ahmed said all rice millers, importers and wholesalers and retailers will sit with the government on Tuesday.


The registration of the rice association, led by Abdur Rashid and Layek Ali, will be cancelled if they are found involved with the price hike of rice, he added.


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