Rice prices have been increasing every year in Dinajpur, which is famous for its abundance of crops. Over the last five years, prices of rice have almost doubled in the region.
Though some are blaming inflation, stockists and the increase in paddy prices for the soaring rice prices, others are considering it a positive development for farmers. Over the period, the prices of rice have increased by Tk850-Tk1,050 per sack. In percentages, they have increased by 143.59% to 180.77%.
In 2015, the price of Guti Swarna rice was Tk22 per kilogramme while it is Tk42 now.
Similarly, the price of Sumon Swarna increased from Tk26 to Tk47, BR 28 from Tk34 to Tk52, BR 29 from Tk32 to Tk50, and Miniket from Tk39 to Tk56 over the five years.
Moslem Uddin, who came to Dinajpur Bahadur Bazar to buy rice, said, "The price of Miniket rice was Tk50 per kilogramme a few days ago, but today it is Tk54 per kilogramme. Rice prices have increased but our income has not. Instead, during the [novel] coronavirus period, many of us have become unemployed. In such a situation, affording the increased prices of rice is very difficult for the working-class people like us."
Akbar Ali, who also came to the market to purchase rice, said prices per sack of different varieties of rice have increased by Tk100-Tk250 within a few days.
"I buy one sack of rice every month. Whenever I come to buy rice, I see that the price of rice has increased. In every season – whether it is summer, rainy or winter – the prices of rice increase. Even after a new harvest, the prices increase. We do not know the reasons behind it but the government should take steps to control the market," said Akbar.
During a recent visit to different markets in Dinajpur, our correspondent saw coarse rice or Guti Swarna rice was selling for Tk2,100 per 50 kilogramme sack, Sumon Swarna for Tk2,350, BR 28 for Tk2,600, BR 29 for Tk2,500, and Miniket for Tk2,800 per sack.
However, towards the beginning of the current year, Guti Swarna sold for Tk1,550, Sumon Swarna for Tk1,700, BR 28 for Tk1,800, BR 29 for Tk1,700, and Miniket for Tk2,100 per sack.
Meanwhile, towards the beginning of 2019, Guti Swarna sold for Tk1,300, Sumon Swarna for Tk1,400, BR 28 for Tk1,750, BR 2,9 for Tk1,650, and Miniket for Tk2,320 per sack.
Towards the end of 2015, Guti Swarna sold for Tk1,100 per sack, Sumon Swarna for Tk1,300, BR 28 for Tk1,700, BR 29 for Tk1,600 and Miniket for Tk1,950 per 50 kilogramme sack.
However, farmers' leaders and rice millers see the increase in rice prices positively.
Earlier, farmers had lost interest in paddy cultivation as they did not get fair prices for the grain. But now they become interested in paddy cultivation as the prices of paddy have increased, according to the farmer leaders and rice millers.
Professor Badiuzzaman Badal, general secretary of the Dinajpur unit of the Bangladesh Farmers Association, said farmers previously would not get fair prices for their paddy, because of which they had lost interest in paddy cultivation. But now due to the increase in paddy prices, they are getting back their interest, Badal added.
This was obviously the success of the government but it needs to be continued, he said.
Alal Bepari, a rice trader and owner of Messrs Food Store in Dinajpur Bahadur Bazar area, said large mill owners are stocking paddy and rice, increasing prices.
"The way prices are increasing is abnormal. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen government monitoring," he said.
Shahidur Rahman Patwari Mohan, vice-president of Bangladesh Major and Auto Major Husking Mill Owners Association, said, "Everyone is saying that the rice prices are rising. But one thing to note is that farmers are getting fair prices for the paddy they produce," he continued.
"Prices of paddy are rising and which is why rice prices are increasing. And rising rice prices means farmers are benefitting. It is not true that the mill owners are increasing the price of rice. The price of rice is increasing in the same ratio of the price of paddy," he explained.
Dinajpur District Food Controller Md Ashrafuzzaman said, "90% of the farmers in the country cultivate paddy. It is true that the price of rice has gone up in line with inflation. However, another reason for increasing rice prices is the rise in paddy prices.
The coarse paddy that was sold for Tk550-600 per maund two years ago is now sold at Tk1,100 per maund."
however, Professor Habibul Islam, a member of the central committee of the Bangladesh Economic Association, said there was no logical reason for the increase in rice prices.
"The rice mill owners are buying most of the paddy and stocking the grain. Again the farmers sell the paddy as soon as they cut and thresh it. Then the millers buy the paddy, stock it and later they increase the prices," said Professor Habibul.
"The government is purchasing paddy in small amounts and rice in large amounts. But the government needs to buy more paddy. If it requires, the government will have to take an initiative to buy all paddy from farmers. If it can be done, farmers will benefit and the government will be able to control the prices of rice," he added.
He further said that it is not correct that the price of rice has increased due to inflation. "The inflation is not that high," he said. According to him, rice traders, primarily, are controlling the rice market.
Selim Reza, a farmer of Boltair area in Dinajpur Sadar Upazila, said this year they got good prices for paddy in both the Boro and Aman seasons. This was not the case several years ago. Sometimes they had to sell paddy incurring losses.
"The government has been collecting paddy from us for several years and it has fixed prices of paddy. Now we can make profits by cultivating paddy," said the farmer.
Farmer Mostafa Kamal of Majhadanga village in Biral upazila said even the production cost did not come from sales a few years ago.
"Now we can make a profit by selling paddy at the prices available. But we could not sell paddy at the same prices that are now the market prices of the paddy. As soon as we cut and thresh paddy, we sell the grain to traders. The traders sell the paddy on the market at higher prices a few days later," said Kamal.