Md Lokman Ali, a paddy wholesaler at Shisha Haat of Naogaon, has been banking on Friday, the only blockade-free day between December 17 and 24, to send out the 815 tonnes of paddy congesting his warehouse.
Storage space, after all, is of the essence to him now, with the newly-harvested aman paddy, the country's second biggest crop, flowing in everyday.
After desperately searching for trucks since Thursday, he managed 22 trucks, enough to send off 330 tonnes to millers at Tangail on Friday evening.
“I suppose I will have to wait until next Friday to send out the remaining stock. It is really frustrating,” said an annoyed Ali, who normally buys 100 tonnes of paddy daily and dispatches them to millers on the same day.
The irregular delivery of paddy, on the other hand, has caused half of the country's 17,000-odd rice millers to suspend production, said Md Layek Ali, convener of Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mill Owners Association.
“On one hand, we are not getting delivery properly from our commission agents and wholesalers. And on the other hand, we are unable to deliver the already-hulled rice to urban areas and get money from the sales,” said Protap Saha, one of the owners of Pragrati Auto Rice Mill.
The Dinajpur-based mill had to suspend production from Tuesday.
“We have orders from our buyers to send rice, but we do not get paid until delivery. As a result, we do not have the funds to buy paddy,” said Reza Humayun Faroque, general secretary of the Rice Millers Association of Dinajpur.
The plight of the rice millers, however, had had a knock-on effect, with the wholesalers struggling to pay the small traders and farmers, in turn.
“Our buyers cannot pay us timely, so we are unable to pay the growers and traders for their paddy up front,” said Md Khalequr Rahman Chowdhury, a paddy wholesaler at Dhelapeer bazaar at Nillphamari.
On Friday noon, some 42 farmers and small traders were seen waiting at his store for money from their paddy sales. But Chowdhury, on the other hand, was waiting for the money from the millers.
“For the first time, I am having to wait for money after selling paddy,” said Dinesh Chandra Roy, a small farmer at Khanshama of Dinajpur, one of the two main rice-growing regions of the country.
The 46-year old has an urgent need for money to buy essentials and fertilisers for the maize field. “We are all being held hostage by the two political parties,” added an aggrieved Roy.
Meanwhile, the effects of the ruptured supply chain have started to show up at the consumer level, with the prices of rice on the rise in Dhaka. Fine rice sold for Tk 46-58 per kilogram in city markets yesterday, up from Tk 44-56 on Wednesday.