Farmers are deflated by the drop in paddy prices, which will leave them with hardly any profit from the current bumper aman harvests.
Aman is the second biggest crop out of the three rice crops produced by growers in a year, accounting roughly for 38 percent of the total production.
“This is not a good sign for us,” said Mohammad Mokhlesar, a 50-year-old farmer at Adamdighi of northwest district Bogura, adding that the production cost is higher this year but the prices are lower.
Coarse paddy is now trading at Tk 650-Tk 690 each maund in various areas in the northwest, in contrast to Tk 720-Tk 750 a year ago. At this rate, farmers are unlikely to make any profit, said some growers and traders.
Growers have planted aman on 58.76 lakh hectares during last monsoon, up 3.4 percent year-on-year, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension's estimates.
Mokhlesar said many farmers including him had to spend for irrigation in the face of scanty rainfall this year. The prices of pesticides were also higher this season.
If the paddy prices do not increase, there will not be any profit for them.
“The only consolation is that I will not incur losses because of higher yield per decimal,” he added.
Traders, agricultural workers and farmers are expecting higher yield during this harvesting season for increased acreage and favourable weather.
Last month, the US Department of Agricultural Extension raised its forecast for aman rice cultivation and production for the current season.
“It appears to me that we are going to have a bumper aman crop as the crop did not see any major hiccup and disease,” said KM Layek Ali, general secretary of the Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mills Association.
The prices of paddy increased after the government announced purchase of 6 lakh tonnes of the grain during the current aman harvesting season. Yet, the prices of paddy are below last year's level.
“The prices may go up when we will start buying to supply to the government warehouses.”
As millers will get higher allocation this year they will buy more, so prices are likely to go up, he said. Last year the food ministry initially announced purchase of 3 lakh tonnes of rice during the aman season, but it ended up procuring about 6 lakh tonnes, according to the Directorate of Food.
The prices of paddy should be Tk 800 each maund if the government procurement price of Tk 36 is taken into consideration, said Fazlul Haque, a grower in Dimla of another northwest district Nilphamari.
Those who cultivate by hiring labour and other farming implements will face losses at the current prices of Tk 660-670 per maund, he said.
The paddy prices may go up after the general election, said Chitta Majumder, managing director of Majumder Group of industries that operates rice mills and also imports the staple.
Mokhlesar, too, is hopeful the paddy prices will pick up after the national elections on December 30.
“It appears that many traders have taken on a wait-and-see stance ahead of elections. They will begin purchasing after the polls,” said the farmer who has kept paddy harvest on hold owing to low prices of the grain.
Meanwhile, the prices of rice have fallen in the last one month on the back of higher production of aus and boro crops and good public stock of grains.
At the retail level in Dhaka, the prices of fine grains fell 4.92 percent to Tk 54-Tk 62 per kilogram and coarse grains 3.53 percent to Tk 38-44 each kilogram over the last one month, according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.
“There is a surplus of the staple now and this is causing the prices to fall,” said Nirod Boron Saha, president of the rice and paddy wholesalers' body Naogaon Dhan O Chal Arathdar Babshayee Samity. One of the main reasons for the surplus is last year's record imports of 38.92 lakh tonnes.
“There is scarcity of buyers for rice,” he said.