The government yesterday sounded a note of warning against unscrupulous traders and said rice price manipulation would not be tolerated as the country had no shortage of the staple.
“It will not be acceptable at any cost if anyone tries to manipulate rice prices … there is no reason to hike the price illegally,” Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder told reporters after a meeting with rice mill owners and traders at the Secretariat.
Meanwhile, the food office yesterday started procuring Aman paddy from farmers in some areas where the harvest began.
The government has decided to procure 6 lakh tonnes of paddy this Aman season, the highest for the season in the last 24 years, according to ministry data.
The minister said the paddy price did not increase, so there was no logic in increasing prices of rice, reports BSS.
“Farmers would rather have benefited had the paddy price been higher, but unfortunately it did not happen,” he said.
He also said a control room had already been opened under the food ministry and vigilance teams were monitoring the rice market at the field level.
Asked, Majumder said the ongoing nation-wide transport strike would not impact rice prices for the next 8-10 days as each market across the country has sufficient rice stock.
Moreover, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection has already been asked to take necessary actions if any irregularities come to its notice, he added.
If required, the minister said, the food ministry would operate mobile courts to this end.
The country produces nearly 3.44 crore tonnes of rice annually against the demand of almost 2.16 crore tonnes, he said.
At present, the country’s food crops stock is about 14,52,707 tonnes at different warehouses of the government. Of the stock, 11,13,303 tonnes are rice.
Acting food secretary Omar Faruque, Director General of the Department of Food Nazmanara Khanum, Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mills Owners Association President Abdur Rashid, Bangladesh Auto Rice Mill Association President Khorshed Alam and representatives from the home, commerce and agriculture ministries, among others, attended the meeting.
Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum, director general of the Directorate General of Food said, “We have asked all our field offices to begin Aman procurement in areas where the harvest has started. The procurement will start all over the country in phases.”
She said her office had already got the list of growers provided by the Department of Agricultural Extension and the procurement officially started in a couple of areas.
The government is buying the paddy so that the farmers get fair prices for their produce and recoup losses incurred in recent seasons.
This year, the volume of paddy purchase, including that of Boro, would be the second highest during the period, according to data from the food ministry.
The ministry bought the highest quantity of paddy -- 6.70 lakh tonnes -- in the Boro season in 2017.
It had earlier announced that it would start buying Aman paddy at Tk 26 each kg from marginal and small farmers on November 20. The procurement would continue till February 28.
The food ministry estimated the production cost of each kg at Tk 21.55, down from Tk 25.30 the previous year.
After a meeting of the Food Planning and Monitoring Committee, the ministry had said the list of growers would be scrutinised by the upazila procurement committees.
In case the number of farmers exceeds the procurement target, the growers would be chosen through lotteries, the food minister said at a briefing following the meeting on October 31.
The government has also decided to buy 3.5 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice, which would be procured at Tk 36 each kilogram.
The purchase quantity was the same last year.
Besides, 50,000 tonnes of un-boiled rice would be bought at Tk 35 a kg, according to a ministry statement.
Rice purchase from millers would begin on December 1 and continue till February 28, said the statement.
PROCUREMENT IN DINAJPUR
Mahmudul Alam, deputy commissioner of Dinajpur, said the government bought 1,000kgs of Aman paddy from two farmers from the district’s Biral and Nawabganj upazilas.
Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, district food controller, said the district food office would buy 28,700 tonnes of Aman paddy from 13 upazilas of Dinajpur.
A farmer can sell maximum 500kgs of Aman paddy, he said, reports our Dinajpur correspondent.
The number of farmers in the district is around 4.50 lakh.