The Directorate General of Food has failed to meet the Aman season's rice and paddy collection targets despite its repeated push. So, the food ministry has extended the procurement deadline to March 5.
The government's target was to buy 6 lakh tonnes of paddy, and 3.5 lakh tonnes of milled rice during the Aman season, between November 20 and February 28. But the Directorate General of Food failed to meet that target, said sources at the department.
The food department managed to procure only 2,50,168 tonnes of parboiled Aman rice until February 24, according to the food ministry. Also, it collected 20,886 tonnes of non-boiled (Atap) rice, and 5,48,925 tonnes of Aman paddy.
The government is buying rice at Tk26 per kg from farmers, boiled rice at Tk36, and Atap rice at Tk35 from millers.
Since rice procurement had been slow in different districts, the Directorate General of Food had issued at least two letters to the divisional commissioners, deputy commissioners, regional, and district food regulators to step-up collection. However, the collection was not completed in the scheduled time.
Zulfiqar Rahman, Directorate General of Food's director for procurement, told The Business Standard, "The weather is the major reason for the delay in collection. Many farmers could not bring dry paddy with the right level of moisture because of the relatively high humidity this winter. So we could not collect paddy from many of them."
A senior official of the Directorate General of Food, asking for anonymity, said, "The fate of farmers across the country were decided through lottery draws this year. But many of them did not bring paddy. This is a problem too."
The higher price of paddy is increasing the price of rice, claimed the millers. The government is buying a maund of paddy for Tk1,040.
The general secretary of the Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mill Owners Association, Layek Ali, said the government is buying rice from across the country.
"But traders are still the ultimate gainers of the government's food procurement drive. The farmers do not have access to it. The food officials delay the procurement drive deliberately so that farmers are forced to sell their paddy to millers or their middlemen at lower prices."