Hannan Ali, a farmer of Damurhuda upazila in Chuadanga, has been listed through a lottery to sell paddy to the government. However, he is not interested in selling paddy to the government at Tk1,020 per maund because the price is Tk950-1,050 at local markets.
"There is an additional cost of delivering paddy to warehouses. Then you have to go to banks again and withdraw the money the next day. It is more profitable for me to sell paddy in the market," he told The Business Standard.
Like Hannan Ali, many farmers across the country are not interested in selling paddy to the government now because all over the country the crop is selling for Tk850-1000 or even more in some places.
The food department is in trouble because of this. The government has decided to procure eight lakh tonnes of paddy this year but fears grow about meeting the target.
To understand the problems faced by farmers, our correspondents talked to some farmers from Naogaon, Chuadanga, Rajshahi, Bogura, Jamalpur, Mymensingh and some other districts.
They learnt that if paddy is taken to the government warehouse by renting a vehicle, farmers make a loss.
And after delivering the paddy, sometimes they have to go around for a few days to withdraw the money from banks. Officials make various excuses when farmers take their crops to warehouses – rice is wet, they must dry it and come back again, the farmers allege.
According to the food ministry's latest data on June 16, the procurement process started on April 26, and in the nearly two months since then, only 29,000 tonnes of paddy has been collected all over the country.
According to the food department, every year the names of middlemen and wholesalers are included in the list of farmers, and then farmers have to sell paddy in markets at a price lower than the cost of production.
But this time the crisis is a bit different and now farmers are unwilling to sell paddy to the government even after getting the opportunity.
Against a target of buying 5,310 tonnes of paddy from 5,310 farmers in Chuadanga, the government has collected only 57 tonnes of the crop since May 13.
Chuadanga Food Regulatory Officer (acting) Rezaul Islam said farmers were not giving paddy to warehouses as the price was high in local markets. Additionally, when farmers sell paddy in the markets, they don't need to wait to withdraw money from banks, or struggle to meet the condition of giving dry paddy, he added.
Bogura District Food Controller SM Saiful Islam said, "Despite the target of collecting 34,800 tonnes of paddy, only 1,600 tonnes has been procured till the second week of June."
According to officials in Rajshahi division, only 2,500 tonnes of paddy have been procured in eight districts till June 15 against the target of 119,000 tonnes.
According to the food department, the government has a target to complete the procurement of eight lakh tonnes of paddy at Tk26 per kg, 10 lakh tonnes of boiled rice at Tk36 per kg and 1.5 lakh tonnes of atap rice at Tk35 per kg by August 31.
As in the case of paddy, the department also had problems for a while in procuring rice. Due to the high price of paddy in the markets, millers also wrote to the government asking for an additional price of Tk4 per kg of rice.
Later, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder categorically said that those who did not sell rice at the fixed price would be blacklisted. Since then, rice collection has gained some momentum.
According to the latest food ministry data on June 16, it has procured 136,000 tonnes of boiled rice, which is much behind the target, officials said.
Asked about this, Sarwar Mahmood, the director general of the Directorate General of Food told The Business Standard, "There are some problems in the procurement drive, but it is not a permanent problem. We have a waiting list of farmers outside the list of the nominated farmers. We will collect the rest from those on the waiting list."
Meanwhile, the problem with millers has been resolved, and they have started selling rice to the government, he said.
The government is distributing rice in various food programmes due to the novel coronavirus. That is why the government's stocks are slowly declining. According to the reserves situation of the food ministry on June 14, there are 8.54 lakh tonnes of rice and 3.9 lakh tonnes of wheat in stock.