The latest spell of flood has inundated nearly 100,000 hectares of Aman crop, raising worries among agriculturists that a large portion of the plantings will be damaged.
Aman is the second-largest rice crop accounting for roughly 38 per cent of the country's annual rice production. The ongoing deluge is likely to affect the overall production of the crop.
"It is really unfortunate. The crop looked good and was growing well," said Md Abdul Muyeed, director-general of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).
"Even though 100,000 hectares of Aman crop were inundated, I think we will be able to reach close to the production target as the crop condition in other parts of the country is very good. We have seen enough rains and plants have received water this year."
The DAE is yet to prepare an estimate on the extent of crops damaged by the flood.
"Crop on half of the inundated areas may be recovered," he said.
Twenty-five districts have been affected by the flood, with Kurigram and Rangpur the worst. Part of Naogaon has also been inundated, said Muyeed, who was visiting the northern region yesterday.
Farmers have started harvesting the early varieties of the paddy, he said.
A former scientist of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute said there was little hope of recovery of a large portion of Aman plantings submerged by the latest floods.
Farmers transplanted Aman paddy on 55.12 lakh hectares this season, down from 55.71 lakh hectares the previous year. The areas for sown or broadcasted also declined, data from the agriculture ministry showed.
This is yet another round of flood that began to hit farmers and localities repeatedly from the end of June this year, fuelling prices of the staple grain amid speculation among rice traders and millers that the overall output will drop during the Aman season because of crop losses and late cultivation.
Floodwaters started to recede at the end of August and the agriculture ministry had said the previous floods damaged Aush and Aman crops on 111,000 hectares of area.
In September, retail prices of coarse rice were 31 per cent up year-on-year at Tk 44 a kilogramme in Dhaka, the Food and Agriculture Organization data showed.
Against the backdrop of the soaring prices, the food ministry, at a meeting with millers and traders last week, fixed the mill gate prices of the grain. The gap between the government-fixed mill gate prices and the retail market has remained high.
Food Secretary Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum said prices would not increase further.
"The government's drive against hoarding of rice will continue. During drives, we still find paddy that has been stocked by people. As we had enough production, we want to explore. Some people must have stocks."
"There is a good stock of food-grains at public warehouses. So, we are not worried," she said.
Bangladesh will have to import to build adequate public stock if Aman production is hampered and the country can't attain the procurement target, Khanum said.
"But, right now, we are not going to import," she said.
Two economists, however, said the drives against hoarding would not be helpful in containing the volatility in the rice market.
Instead, the government should focus on increasing supply either through the higher distribution of rice using the social safety net programmes or through imports.
"The new spell of the flood will create speculation and will have an impact in the rice market," said Khan Ahmed Sayeed Murshid, the director-general of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
He said drives against hoarding to curb volatility in the market did not work in the past.
"Supply has to be increased in the market to control speculation," he said.
The government distributed four lakh tonnes of grains in the October to November period from public stocks of 10 lakh tonnes of rice.
At the same time, the government should initiate the process for imports. The purchase from the external sources should not be done during the harvesting season as it will hurt farmers, Murshid said.
Prof Shamsul Alam, a member of the General Economics Division of the planning commission, said Aman crop would not be affected if the water recedes fast.
"The price spiral of rice is not good news for consumers. As the rice market is highly competitive, putting pressures on traders and millers will bring little benefit. Steps should be taken to facilitate imports," said Alam, an agricultural economist.
Wais Kabir, a former executive chairman of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, said a portion of Aman crop in the Teesta-Dhara basin would be affected for the inundation.
As an alternative, crops such as mustard and maize can be considered and the government can take steps to support affected farmers so that they can intensify the cultivation of early winter crop, he said.
Muyeed said the DAE would take initiatives to provide seeds of mustard, maize and wheat to rehabilitate farmers.