Although state-run silos do not have adequate space at this moment, a proposal has been finalised to procure rice at govt level. Except for some hopeful dialogues by different ministers and officials, the government has not yet taken any concrete step over the issue of low Boro paddy prices. Although state-run silos do not have adequate space to stock foodgrain at this moment, a proposal has been finalised for purchasing additional rice at the government level.
However, the government is now contemplating to export surplus rice to ensure fair price to farmers. Experts have also suggested that the weather was extremely favourable for bumper production of Boro this year.
The Independent visited Tangail on Monday and found that farmers were suffering due to shortage of labour to collect paddy from their fields.
According to the farmers, labourers were demanding Tk. 600-700 as daily wages per person to cut paddy, but this was an extremely high price.
One maund (40kg) of paddy was being sold between Tk. 450 and Tk. 500 in different markets in the country against the average production cost of Tk. 650–800.
Rice traders have blamed mill owners for the low paddy prices. The traders alleged that most of the mill owners are either reluctant to procure paddy or involved in procuring paddy at low prices to increase their stocks. The price of rice should be Tk. 1,000 per sack (50 kg) now if paddy is being sold for Tk. 450–500 per maund, the traders said.
Meanwhile, the ministers for finance,
agriculture, commerce and food have suggested export of surplus rice. Even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked the ministries concerned to ensure proper price for the farmers and go for export if needed.
“The government has to take some policy to ensure fair price for the farmers’ produce. The immediate remedy is to procure paddy from farmers directly instead of millers. Besides, the government should further increase the import duty on rice to discourage the import of rice,” Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) distinguished fellow Mustafizur Rahman told The Independent yesterday.
The import duty on rice was now 28 per cent, he said, adding that this rate should be hiked to safeguard the interest of farmers.
Asked about the disinterest among farmers to cultivate rice, Rahman replied: “Such thinking on the part of the farmers is very dangerous. If they lose their interest to produce rice, the country will have to import foodgrain. Food security is very important for a nation.”
Huge quantities of rice are imported at the private level, he said, adding that the government should stop such imports to ensure fair price for farmers’ produce.
At least 20 lakh tonnes of rice have been imported through private channels so far, said sources in the Directorate of Food.
Mahmudur Rahman Masud, a farmer at Dulla village in Delduar upazila in Tangail district, said he had cultivated two acres of land for Boro. “It is very painful that we are not getting fair price. We have to hire workers to cut paddy by paying Tk 600–700 per person per day. If such a condition continues, then we won’t cultivate rice for additional production from next year,” he added.
Masud complained that they were not getting fair prices and they were even failing to pay the cost for workers by selling one maund of paddy.
On his part, agriculture minister Dr Abdur Razzaque said the high-ups in the government were trying to find out ways to protect the farmers’ interest.
The minister also termed the situation as critical as farmers are registering massive losses as they are not getting fair prices in the local markets, while the harvesting of Boro paddy had begun across the country. The food ministry has expressed its inability to procure additional rice due to shortage of spaces at different government godowns. The stock position of government silos are now about 15 lakh tonnes of foodgrain as against a capacity for about 21 lakh tonnes, food ministry sources said.
Meanwhile, the government has planned to procure 12.50 lakh tonnes of Boro rice this season. Food minister Shadhan Mujumder informed that the government has decided to establish 200 paddy silos across the country on the occasion of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which would help farmers to get fair prices.