The food ministry said there was no reason to fear as the government warehouses were well stocked with food. The ministry of agriculture claims that the country has produced ample quantity of rice and there is no need to import. Then why is the price of rice is increasing in the prime season?
And it is the price of coarse rice that has gone up, the rice mostly consumed by poor and low-income people. Their income has already decreased due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country. And now the continuous increase in the price of rice has put this population at serious risk.
The food ministry has emphasised the need to import rice to overcome the emergency crisis. On the other hand, the agriculture ministry said there was no need to import rice at the moment.
What is the way out? There does not seem to be any coordination between the ministry of agriculture and the ministry of food. The food ministry has emphasised the need to import rice to overcome the emergency crisis. On the other hand, the agriculture ministry said there was no need to import rice at the moment. They said, the price would go down if the rice hoarded by the mill owners and stockists can be brought to the market.
Prothom Alo's report on Monday highlighted three reasons for the rise in rice prices.
The price of coarse rice has gone up by 30-35 per cent. Low income people are in dire straits due to declining income and rising rice prices
First, despite extending the deadline, the government could not meet the target of procuring paddy and rice. The target was set at 800,000 tonnes. They have collected only 500,000 tonnes. The government warehouse has 1.1 million tonnes of rice, of which 300,000 tonnes were stocked during the previous season. This stock in no way can be enough.
As always, the government has relied more on the rice mill owners than buying paddy from the cultivators directly. But the rice mill owners are not selling rice at the price fixed by the government now. They first demanded two taka per kg and later four taka more than the fixed price. As the food ministry could not come to a decision in this regard, there was a kind of stalemate. As the price of paddy is on the rise this year, many solvent farmers have also hoarded more paddy.
The growers have the right to a fair price for their produce. On the other hand, the government has to take the responsibility of delivering food items to low income people at low prices. Only low production does not create food crisis in the country, it also happens when the price goes beyond the purchasing capacity of the people.
The two programmes of the food ministry to deliver food to low-income people are to sell rice in the open market (OMS) and to sell rice at 10 taka per kg. The sale of rice in the open market has stopped. Authorities also stopped selling rice at Tk 10 per kg in the face of criticism. Although some of the poorest people benefited from the food aid provided by the government during the coronavirus period, a large number of people remained out of the programme. The price of coarse rice has gone up by 30-35 per cent. Low income people are in dire straits due to declining income and rising rice prices.
In this situation, the first thing the government should do is to increase the stock of rice. It has to accept the words of the rice mill owners as the government does not have specific information about the amount of paddy and rice stored in the country outside the government warehouses.
Aman and Aush cultivation has been disrupted due to floods and cyclone Amphan. There is another six to seven months for the next Boro season. The government cannot afford taking any risk now. In addition to increasing rice stock, rice distribution programmes must be strengthened. This will alleviate the suffering of low-income people.