The country has seen a very good yield of rice in this year's boro season. Farmers are happy as they have got good prices for their crops in the markets. But the government is facing trouble to fulfill the target of procuring paddy and rice. As farmers are selling their produce in markets at prices higher than that offered by the government, they are not interested in selling paddy to the government.
The food department has fixed the target of procuring eight lakh tonnes of paddy at Tk26 per kilogramme, 10 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice at Tk36 per kg and 1.5 lakh tonnes of sunburn rice at Tk35 per kg.
According to the food ministry data of August 9, the government has collected only 22 percent of it paddy target over three and a half months. The government has only this month to achieve the goal.
Though rice collection is better than paddy collection, it is only 45.65 percent of the target. Rice millers do not want to sell rice to the public warehouses as per the contract with the government because they have to buy rice from the market at higher prices.
Farmers are not coming to market to sell the crops due to the floods. According to a report of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), farmers have stocked their produce this year as the prices of the crops are good in the market. This is why paddy is being sold in the market at Tk1,100-Tk1,160 per maund.
However, Sarwar Mahmud, director general of the food department, said, "There is a possibility of reaching close to the target as the flood situation is improving."
He said there is enough food stock to tackle any disaster. Besides, the government had all types of preparation to run different food aid programmes, he said.
"The government will take a decision on rice import after seeing the quantities of paddy and rice collected till August 31," said Sarwar.
Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum, secretary of the food ministry, said, "We will be able to manage till December with the food in our stock. But we have to distribute food under different social safety net programmes, like relief or the Open Market Sale programme. If we cannot build a good stock of food by this time, we will be in trouble."
The total stock of crops in public warehouses till August 11 was 12.54 lakh tonnes, according to the food ministry. Of the crops, 10.21 lakh tonnes was rice and 2.33 lakh tonnes was wheat.
Problems of rice millers
Rice millers are reluctant to sell crops to the government at the fixed price of Tk36 per kg. They have to count losses by selling rice at that price as they have to buy paddy at higher prices from the market.
Layek Ali, general secretary of the Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mills Owners Association, said, "Rice mill owners have not been able to provide the public warehouses with rice due to rain and floods. Besides, they have to incur losses as the price of paddy has increased in the market. We had requested the government to give an incentive of Tk4 per kg of rice to reduce the losses. But the government did not show any interest in it."
Towards the beginning of the boro season, Ekota Rice Mill of Naogaon supplied 30 tonnes of rice to the public warehouse as per the contract with government. But the rice mill had to face losses, said Nirod Baran Saha, managing partner of the mill.
"The government wants to buy fine rice at the price of coarse paddy, which is not possible for many rice millers," said Nirod.
Mahmud Hasan Raju, general secretary of Thakurgaon Rice Mills Owners Association, said, "This year, rice mill owners have incurred losses of Tk2-Tk4 per kg of rice."
However, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder said at a programme organised by BRRI recently that rice millers used to make a profit of Tk5-Tk6 per kg of rice every year.
"This year, the profit may have decreased to Tk1 per kg. They have to accept it in special circumstances. So the millers, who will not supply rice as per the contract, will be brought to book," he added.
At the same programme, Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzak said, "The government needs to be prepared for importing rice on a limited scale within a short time if required."