Published on 12:00 AM, September 10, 2018

Food ministry in overdrive

Buys 13 lakh tonnes of Boro, decides to get 4 lakh more

After facing strong criticism last year over poor food reserve due to failure in procuring targeted amount of rice from the domestic market, the Ministry of Food has made a complete turnaround this year.

Having already procured 13 lakh tonnes of Boro exceeding the target of 10 lakh tonnes, the Food Planning and Monitoring Committee yesterday decided to procure another four lakh tonnes of rice from the domestic market.

The decision came at a meeting with Food Minister Qamrul Islam in the chair where Finance Minister AMA Muhith was also present.

An official concerned said the meeting discussed the overall food stock and food situation in the country.

Arifur Rahman Apu, director general of the Directorate of Food, told The Daily Star that they had decided in favour of additional procurement to encourage farmers, and because of good Boro production.

The official said they had already procured 13 lakh tonnes of Boro rice and the other four lakh tonnes would be procured in the next few days.

According to food ministry data, Boro rice procurement target was 12.5 lakh tonnes in 2017 against which only 3.37 lakh tonnes was procured.

Boro production was low last year as some rice was lost in flash floods in haor areas, floods and blast disease in paddy. As a result, rice price increased abnormally in the local market, but the government's procurement price did not rise keeping pace with that.

The food ministry official said this time Boro procurement price was Tk 38 per kg, 12 percent higher than that of the previous season.

The official added that favourable weather, adequate input as well as water supply and attractive rice price contributed to the production exceeding the target.

The agriculture ministry has fixed a target of 1.9 crore tonnes of Boro production this year, but the food ministry official said the production hit 1.97 crore tonnes.

As a result, the food reserve has reached 15.94 lakh tonnes, the highest in last 20 years, according to the food ministry.

The reserve scenario was totally different during this time last year. The volume came down to 1.98 lakh tonnes, resulting in desperate  moves to import rice by both the government and private sector.

Experts blamed an imprudent food stock policy that the government pursued, allowing market manipulators to raise the prices of coarse rice up to 42 percent compared to the previous year's price.