Subsidised rice for 1.5cr poor
The government today starts selling rice at subsidised prices in an effort to give respite to the poor and low-income earners and bring stability to the volatile rice market.
The food ministry plans to sell 7.65 lakh tonnes of rice to more than 1.5 crore people in three months.
Of the beneficiaries, one crore will get the staple for Tk 30 a kg under the Open Market Sale (OMS) and 50 lakh special cardholders for Tk 15 per kg under the Food Friendly Programme (FFP).
Yesterday, the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase approved the import of five lakh tonnes of wheat from Russia and 3.3 lakh tonnes of rice from Vietnam and India at a total cost of $378 million (Tk 3,590 crore) under G2G arrangements.
Besides, Bangladesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Myanmar for importing another two lakh tonnes of rice.
"We now have a huge stock of rice. But a large portion of it will be sold in the next three months under the OMS and the Food Friendly Programme … The government is importing rice to replenish the stock," Shakhawat Hossain, director general at the Directorate General of Food, said yesterday.
According to the food ministry, the government had stocks of 17.5 lakh tonnes of rice and 1.4 lakh tonnes of wheat till August 30.
The move comes at a time when the poor and low-income earners are struggling to cope with the soaring prices of essentials.
In the middle of last month, the prices of all varieties of rice rose by Tk 2-5 per kg. The prices began to fall after the government reduced import duty on rice to 15.25 percent from 25 percent on August 28.
According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), fine rice was sold for Tk 75 per kg yesterday, semi-coarse rice for Tk 60 a kg and coarse rice for Tk 56 per kg.
A week ago, the price of per kg fine rice was Tk 80, semi-coarse rice Tk 60 and coarse rice Tk 58.
WHEAT, RICE IMPORT
Yesterday, the cabinet committee approved the import of five lakh tonnes of wheat from Russia for $214.94 million (Tk 2,042.5 crore). The import cost of wheat will be Tk 40.85 per kg.
A food ministry official said one lakh tonnes of wheat will be brought by ships every month from September to January next year.
The government will also import 3.3 lakh tonnes of rice -- 2.3 lakh tonnes from Vietnam and one lakh tonnes from India -- for $162.94 million (Tk 1,548 crore).
The average import cost of per kg rice will be Tk 42.13.
Officials said the government is considering importing another one to two lakh tonnes of rice from India.
SALE UNDER OMS, FFP
Shakhawat Hossain said the government will sell rice under the OMS and the FFP to protect the poor and low-income earners from price shock and bring stability to the rice market.
"There will be two separate queues for TCB cardholders and general customers … The TCB cardholders will get priority," he said, adding that each cardholder will be allowed to buy 5 kg rice at a time for Tk 30 a kg.
A cardholder will be able to buy up to a maximum of 10 kg rice a month, he mentioned.
A total of 3.15 lakh tonnes of rice will be sold at 2,363 OMS centres in three months. However, there will be no sales at weekends.
Asked whether poor people without TCB cards will be deprived of the benefit, Shakhawat said anyone can buy rice from OMS centres by showing National Identity (NID) card.
Contacted, TCB Chairman Brig Gen Ariful Hassan said there are more than one crore TCB cardholders in the country.
"They will be able to buy rice at the subsidised price of Tk 30 per kg from the OMS centres. Apart from this, sale of oil, sugar, onion and lentil by the TCB will continue simultaneously," he said.
Under the FFP, 50 lakh special cardholders will be able to buy 30 kg rice for Tk 15 a kg per month from 10,110 dealers across the country.
The food ministry will provide 4.50 lakh tonnes of rice for the FPP for three months.