As this daily has reported, prices of all types of rice, including coarse rice, shot up by Tk 3 a kilogram at retail markets in the capital over the last ten days. Apparently, this has happened after the government's decision to raise import duty on rice to 28 percent from 2 percent. Although the decision was taken for the benefit of the farmers, it is the dishonest traders and millers who are taking advantage of the decision by making it an excuse for hiking rice prices.
There is no logical reason for the recent increase in rice prices as according to various government and private estimates, currently there is adequate supply of rice in the country. The stocks of food grains at public warehouses have rather increased as our farmers had a good harvest in the last Aus, Aman and Boro seasons and the production of Boro is expected to exceed the government's target. In addition, 41.12 lakh tonnes of rice were imported during the last fiscal year, the highest in 30 years. Although the traders and importers are blaming the import duty hike for the price increase, their claim does not have much ground as the prices of not only the imported rice but also of all the local varieties have gone up.
Under these circumstances, the government must have a strong market monitoring mechanism in place so that the supply of rice remains smooth in the market and no artificial crisis is created by the hoarders. At the same time, the different government ministries concerned should work in coordination with each other to ensure a stable rice market. Action should be taken against the unscrupulous traders and importers who are increasing the price only to make more profit. And since the poor and the ultra-poor are worst affected by this price hike, the government should immediately start providing rice at a subsidised price to these people through open market sale.