In another blow to the interest of farmers and also honest millers, it has been discovered that nearly a third of registered millers in Lalmonirhat are not genuine. And yet, these fake millers are still selling rice to the government, robbing real millers and farmers of their share of the rice market at a time of great strife for the latter.
During an investigation by this newspaper, 17 out of at least 45 rice mills were found to be fake, while 10 were non-operational. And there are a number of examples of fake millers or millers who have shut down their operations but still sold rice to the government as recently as this year, when the government ran its rice procurement programme, apparently to help farmers.
What is happening is that the phony millers are either buying low-quality rice from the market or collecting rice from the government’s aid programmes meant for the poor or those affected by one form of disaster or another, and selling it back to the government at a higher price. And the reason why they have been able to get away with it is because of corrupt officials who have been bribed into compliance or into silence by the inauthentic millers. Hence a number of non-existent rice mills remain registered with the government, even though they could have easily been exposed from a simple field visit by the upazila food controller which, according to rules, is mandatory.
The entire situation is detrimental for our food sector, which is one of the most important sectors for any country. Not only does this harm honest millers and, most importantly, the farmers, it could also prove problematic on a much bigger scale later on. That is why the authorities should root out corruption from this sector, with utmost urgency.