The government is going to take action against rice mills in different parts of the country that either did not participate in the food procurement programme or did not supply rice even after having a contract with the government.
It has blacklisted 914 rice mills in Dinajpur, 193 in Jashore and 261 in Kushtia.
To meet the procurement target, the government had communicated with 2,122 rice mills in Dinajpur, but 2,023 of them responded. After signing the agreement, 1,208 rice mills have supplied rice. As a result, the target in Dinajpur could not be met.
Out of 914 blacklisted mills in Dinajpur, 99 mills did not sign contracts, 673 mills did not provide rice even after signing contracts, and 142 mills provided partial amounts. The office of the district food officer has sent a list to the food ministry.
According to the Dinajpur District Food Office, it targeted to procure 91,723 tonnes of boiled rice during the Boro season. But, 66,684 tonnes have been purchased. The target for paddy procurement was 32,072 tonnes, against which 9,153 tonnes were procured.
The government may revoke the licences of rice mills or blacklist them for a long period for not participating in the food supply contracts. On the other hand, those who did not provide rice or provided partial amounts despite having a contract may be blacklisted for a relatively short period.
The government has also decided to reward rice mills that have provided the desired amount of rice.
Dinajpur District Food Officer Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman said, "We have tried our best to get rice from the millers. Though officials routinely went to collect rice from the millers, many did not hand over the rice. The necessary steps are now being taken from the central office."
In Jashore, 193 rice mills have been blacklisted for not supplying rice even after signing an agreement with the government.
According to the Jashore District Food Department, 361 rice mill owners had agreed to supply 27,312 tonnes of rice during the Boro season. However, on the pretext of increasing paddy prices, they provided only 15,105 tonnes of rice. Of the millers in contract, 81 did not supply any rice at all.
According to food officials, these rice mill owners have sold rice in the open market instead of selling it to the government, citing high prices in the market. Last year, mill owners made a profit of up to Tk9 per kg.
This year, Jashore has produced around 10.30 lakh tonnes of paddy during the Boro season, and rice production was 6.8 lakh tonnes.
In Jashore, 361 rice mill owners signed contracts to supply 27,312 tonnes of rice during the Boro season. But, 193 millers did not supply rice as agreed on the pretext of price increase. Therefore, only 15,105 tonnes of rice could be collected.
In Kushtia also, the rice collection target could not be met. The food department is taking steps against 261 rice mills in the district for not supplying rice despite agreements. The steps include blacklisting, forfeiting collateral, cancelling stimulus packages for the mills and keeping them out of contract for the next two seasons.
The district had set a target of purchasing 36,000 tonnes of coarse rice at Tk36 per kg during the Boro season. According to the District Food Office, a little more than 22,000 tonnes have been collected.
Joynal Abedin, general secretary of the Kushtia District Rice Mill Owners' Association, said the paddy market has climbed even after a lot of production in the country this year. Since the production of coarse paddy in the Boro season is very low, the production cost of rice was higher than the price fixed by the government. Therefore, mill owners have supplied rice at a loss of Tk3-4 per kg.
However, it is worth reconsidering action against millers that have failed to deliver rice even after signing agreements. Small mill owners are already bankrupt, and any drastic action by the government could put their very survival at risk.
Our Kushtia, Jashore and Dinajpur correspondents have assisted in preparing the report.