The food department has procured only 18,500 tonnes of the targeted 41,000 tonnes of parboiled and sun-dried (atap) rice in Brahmanbaria as millers have reduced the supply to government warehouses citing their loss.
So, there is fear of not achieving the government purchase target in the district this season. The rice procurement drive was launched here on May 7 and will continue till August 31.
The Rice Millers' Association alleges that traders have suddenly increased the price of paddy. But, they have to supply rice to the government warehouse by buying paddy at a high price. That's why they have to incur the loss. This is disrupting the rice supply.
Millers who earlier bought paddy at low prices are now continuing to supply rice to government warehouses, they added.
Around one lakh maunds of paddy are traded here every day at the Bhiosi Ghat market on the Meghna river in Ashuganj, the largest paddy market in the eastern part of the country. About two thousand people, including workers, traders, farmers and mill owners gather here every day.
In Brahmanbaria, farmers and traders bring paddy produced in haors in Kishoreganj, Mymensingh, Netrokona, Sunamganj, Sylhet and Habiganj to the market by boat.
This haat (market) mainly supplies paddy to more than 350 rice mills in the district, and every year the government buys rice from these haat-centric traders. The government has signed an agreement with millers to procure 41,000 tonnes of rice from the district this year.
Of this, the rice millers in Ashuganj will supply 27,500 tons. They have already supplied 12,000 tonnes so far. As of Tuesday (July 14), 18,500 tonnes of rice had been collected from the district, the food department said.
Rice millers in Ashuganj said mill owners are not able to procure paddy as per the demand due to the increase in the price of paddy at the market this time. Due to low sale of paddy, farmers and traders have also reduced paddy supply at the haat.
As the rice production cost is higher than the price fixed by the government, this year they are supplying less rice, they added.
The cost of rice production per maund of paddy is Tk1,000, including all the expenses. And 24 kilograms of rice is produced from a maund of paddy. As such, the cost of rice production is more than Tk40 per kg. But the government is buying rice at Tk36 per kg. The millers have to count the losses. That is why they have reduced the supply of rice.
Helal Sikder, general secretary of the Ashuganj rice mill owners' association, said, "We don't buy paddy directly from farmers. Traders who buy paddy from farmers have manipulated its price. As we are losing Tk4 per kg of rice due to the price hike, we have reduced the rice supply to government warehouses."
"Although everyone blames the mill owners, traders actually have created the crisis by increasing prices of paddy. However, we are in talks with higher authorities of the government. We are trying our best to supply rice to meet the government target," he said.
Subir Nath Chowdhury, District Controller of Food, said, "We have talked to the leaders of the rice mill owners' association. They have earned Tk5-7 per kg of rice in the last two years. This time they may be losing one taka or 50 paisa per kg."