The government has decided to allow private firms to import rice to keep the rice market stable, said Food Minister Shadhan Chandra Majumdar.
"The Food Planning and Monitoring Committee in a meeting on Monday took the decision. The meeting resolution will soon be sent to the prime minister for her approval. The next course of action will be decided accordingly," the minister told reporters after the meeting.
The final decision in this regard will be taken by the prime minister, he added.
Shadhan Chandra said the meeting discussed how to import duty free rice to ensure that farmers, markets, and other stakeholders are not affected.
Regarding the ongoing anti-hoarding drives, the minister said consumers are beginning to reap the benefits of the drives.
"The ongoing anti-hoarding drive, even if rice is imported privately, will continue," he went on to say.
Among others, LGRD Minister Tajul Islam, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, Fisheries and Livestock Minister M Rezaul Karim, State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, Enamur Rahman, the NBR chairman, senior secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, secretary of the Cabinet Division, and secretary of the Ministry of Food, also attended the meeting.
The Boro season is considered the major rice growing season in the country. The country's Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) set a target of more than 2.11 crore tons of rice production this season but that was disrupted in some of the country's haor regions by floods and heavy rains.
According to DAE projections, the country will see a setback of 80,000 tons of rice production because of the natural disasters.
At present, quality Miniket rice is selling for Tk65-68 per kg in the capital while per kg of standard Miniket is Tk60-65. Another variety of the rice is available for Tk50-52 in the markets.
With rising prices of all food items including rice, pulses, oil, sugar, milk, bread, flour, maida, and biscuits, people with limited incomes are struggling to meet essential family needs.
According to a study done by the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and the Brac Institute of Governance Development (BIGD), at least 21 lakh people have fallen into poverty because of the recent price hike of essentials.
Some 27% of the surveyed households have reduced consumption of rice due to the price hike, and 36% families were forced to buy poor quality rice. Importantly, 73% of families were forced to consume less fish, it added.
Commodity prices have already risen in the country to some extent due to the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war. To make matters worse, cashing in on the global crisis, some traders have started hiking prices of essentials abnormally.
To curb this, the ministry is conducting drives across the country to nab illegal hoarders and people behind the abnormal price rise of commodities.