Stabilising Rice Market: Experts call for effective policy
An efficient government policy to collect, reserve and import rice is crucial to maintaining a balanced price in the market, said the Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh yesterday.
At the virtual dialogue titled "Why price of rice is soaring? Who's gaining, who's losing?" the speakers also emphasised on prioritising marginalised farmers in the policy and increasing accuracy in estimates of food grain production.
The dialogue, moderated by Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, convener of the platform, also advised the government to form a commission for the pricing of agriculture goods.
Dr M Asaduzzaman, former research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) said, "Marginalised farmers are being neglected in the present marketing system, just like they were in the colonial period.
"As the price of rice started soaring, there are many unanswered questions. Why has the government failed to collect the targeted rice; why the delay to start importing and how is the government planning to pressurise hoarders?" he queried.
Shykh Seraj, director and head of news at Channel I, said, "Farmers are not benefiting from the price hike as they sell right after harvest. Many farmers are moving away from paddy to cultivating exotic crops… that may be disastrous if not monitored."
He said the government should revive the food grain storage loan project to help farmers hold their produce till they get a good price.
Dr Quazi Shahabuddin, former director general of BIDS, said, "We see a major gap in available information. Also, we don't know how the government is planning to keep adequate reserves in the future and what their plans are against hoarders speculating the market?"
Farmers from Gaibandha, Pirojpur, Meherpur, Satkhira, Sunamganj, Sirajganj, Rangpur, Nilphamari and Kurigram joined the dialogue.
They said marginalised farmers are compelled to sell their produce immediately after harvest to repay their debts.
They urged the government to extend support so that they can store paddy for a couple of months to sell at a good price.
Dr Md Shahjahan Kabir, director general of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), said, "Considering reduced Aman harvest and high consumption, we estimated a 30-lakh tonne surplus by June 30 this year. There will be no food crisis as farmers will produce more Boro this season."
Dr Nazirul Islam, director general of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), said, "We estimate a shortage of 14 lakh tonnes of rice by 2030. As agriculture now contributes only 15 percent to the GDP, it must be mechanised for greater production and rational use of labour in other sectors."
Dr Mirza Mofazzal Islam, director general of Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA), said, "Coarse rice's demand is increasing as most medium-priced rice varieties in the market are manufactured from coarse rice. To meet the demand, we should focus on more producing varieties."
AKM Khorshed Alam Khan, president of Auto Rice Mill Owners' Association, said, "The government said high yield, but we saw lesser produce available to purchase last year. We don't have any stock left and that's affecting the market price."
He also talked about an automatic syndicate that has emerged without planning as large corporations are purchasing and hoarding rice.
Md Shah Alam, president of Bangladesh Rice Exporters' Association, said, "The decision to import rice should have been taken days ago and the scope of importing should be open for all by reducing import duty to 20 percent."
Kazi Sazzad Zahir Chandan, general secretary of Bangladesh Krishak Samity, said, "To boost up reserves, government must build storage in all major paddy-harvesting unions."
Mohammad Emaz Uddin Pramanik, member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Agriculture, said, "The hoarders are responsible for the price hike of rice and the consumers are suffering. As the government is low on rice reserve, we're trying our best to regain enough stock soon to intervene in the market."
According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), the retail price of coarse rice is around 46 percent higher compared to the corresponding price on last year, while the price of fine and medium rice also rose between seven and 20 percent.
The total reserve of rice is only 5.32 lakh tonnes as of January 6, just over half the reserve at the same time last year.