Frustrated by huge losses, many farmers are demanding that the government procure paddy or rice directly from them rather than the rice mill owners.
“In the current system, farmers have no choice but to sell their harvest to local rice mill owners. So, those middlemen become the beneficiaries and the farmers become victims,” said Aziz Mollah, a farmer of Dhulauri village of Pabna’s Santhia upazila.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque yesterday told reporters at his office, “Middlemen exist throughout the world. Who are the middlemen? Wholesalers? Wholesalers are needed. Can farmers bring paddy to Karwan Bazar and sell?
“We are buying rice at Tk 36 a kg. But farmers don’t get the money. Political influence and influential people interfere …”
However, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder told reporters in Naogoan that there was no political influence in rice procurement.
To express their solidarity, students in different districts have joined the frustrated farmers in protesting the low prices of paddy.
Farmers have been saying that their production cost is higher than the market price of rice and paddy.
“We had to spend Tk 500 to Tk 550 to produce each maund of rice. But the price hovers between Tk 400 or Tk 450,” said Ripon Islam, a farmer at Pakarmatha village in Lalmonirhat’s Aditmari upazila.
“We are incurring huge losses. We are selling paddy at low prices. How will the
farmers continue to cultivate paddy?” said Alawal Haque, a farmer in Dinajpur.
Zulfiquar Rahman, director (procurement) at the Directorate General of Food, said 35,000 tonnes of rice had already been procured this season.
The government last month announced it would buy 12.5 lakh tonnes of boro paddy this season to ensure fair prices for farmers.
Of the amount, 10 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice and 1.5 lakh tonnes of aromatic rice will be purchased by the food department. It will also buy 1.5 lakh tonnes of paddy.
The department said it would pay Tk 36 for a kg of parboiled and Tk 35 for aromatic rice.
The department said it would buy paddy at Tk 26 a kg and the procurement would continue until the end of August.
In Rangpur, Krishok Sangram Parishad yesterday spread paddy on the street and formed a human chain demanding fair prices for their produce.
Farmers at the event announced that they would never cultivate paddy again.
Political activists also demonstrated on the streets.
In Rajshahi University, leaders and activists of Bangladesh Chhatra Federation yesterday formed a human chain demanding fair prices for paddy growers.
On Wednesday, over one hundred students of the university demonstrated.
In Dinajpur, the district’s Deputy Commissioner Mahmudul Alam inaugurated the government paddy procurement programme yesterday.
Our Lalmonirhat, Dinajpur, Pabna and Rajshahi University correspondents contributed to The Daily Star report.