Sales in the country's paddy markets have declined after the government decided to allow Indian rice imports to keep the rice market stable, according to reports sent by our correspondents from different districts.
Despite stable prices and a good supply of paddy in the market, sales have declined in the largest paddy market of the eastern region, at VOC Ghat on the Meghna River in Ashuganj upazila of Brahmanbaria.
These days, 30-35 thousand maunds of paddy is sold every day at the century-old paddy market, which is at least 30% less than usual.
Rice mill owners apprehend that due to private imports of Indian rice, the price of domestic rice will come down in the market and so they are buying less paddy to avoid losses and maximize profits. They think that the price of paddy will go down further once the Indian rice enters the market.
Similarly, mill owners in the northern region of the country are also buying less paddy.
At present BR-28, BR-29, and Heera paddy are selling in the market where traders from Kishoreganj, Mymensingh, Netrokona, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar, and Habiganj, bring paddy by boat every day. Sales are on in the market from 8am to noon.
BR-28 is selling for Tk1160-Tk1170 a maund, BR-29 is going for Tk1100-Tk1120, and Heera paddy is at Tk950-970.
In paddy season, about one lakh maunds of paddy is sold in this market every day, while an average of 40,000-50,000 maunds of paddy is sold during the rest of the year.
All the owners of 300 rice mills in Brahmanbaria buy paddy from this market to supply rice to all districts of Chattogram and Sylhet divisions, and to some districts of Dhaka division.
Even at the beginning of last August, at least 50,000 maunds of paddy were sold in the market every day. But since the last week of August, sales have been declining. At present, an average of 30,000-35,000 maunds of paddy is being sold every day. Sales have been declining since the news of Indian rice imports reached the market, with the price of paddy decreasing by Tk20-Tk30 per maund.
According to rice mill owners, there is a demand of about 2,500 maunds of paddy per day in the auto rice mills of the district, and 1,000 maunds of paddy every week in other rice mills. But hearing the news of Indian rice imports, rice mill owners are not buying paddy commensurate to demand since the market price of rice is low, relative to the cost of making rice from paddy.
Saiful Islam, a trader who brought in paddy from Mithamain upazila in Kishoreganj, said, "I have brought 300 sacks of BR-29 paddy to the market where paddy is now selling at a lower price than what I paid for my paddy. For me, this will mean a loss of Tk20,000-Tk,30,000 on 300 sacks of paddy. Rice mill owners have cut their purchase price of paddy since the government decided to allow importing Indian rice."
Hasan Imran, owner of Rajnigandha Agro Food in Ashuganj, said, "Indian rice has not yet reached the markets of Brahmanbaria. The downturn in the paddy market will not steady before we see the actual market sell price of Indian rice. At present, paddy is being bought less and for less than there is demand."
Helal Sikder, general secretary of Ashuganj Upazila Rice Mill Owners' Association, said, "We have heard that the government has approved the import of 1.7 million tons of rice and so mill owners are buying less paddy, triggering a decline in paddy prices in the market."
"Mill owners want to assess the price of Indian rice in the market. If they think there is not much difference in price once the Indian rice reaches the market, they will start buying paddy like before," he added.
Meanwhile, in Dinajpur also, the price of paddy has started declining for the last 15 days over the news of Indian rice imports, coming down Tk150-Tk200 per sack, compared to the last month.
The price of rice has also gone down due to declining paddy prices rice and mill owners say they are facing losses because of this.
In Gopalganj, Raniganj, Farmerhat and other paddy markets in the district, a 75kg sack of the BR-28 variety of paddy sold for Tk2250-Tk2400 a month ago, which is now going for Tk2100-Tk2200.
Similarly, the price of BR-16 variety of paddy has come down to Tk2000-Tk2150 from Tk2200-Tk2300, while the coarse variety (hybrid) of paddy is selling for Tk1800-Tk1900, coming down from Tk1900-Tk2000.
Amjad Ali, a trader from Chalhati in Bahadurbazar, said, "The price of rice has come down a bit since news of Indian rice imports reached the market. As far as I know, the quality of Indian rice is poor. However, the effect will be better understood by Sunday."
Faruk Hossain, a paddy trader in Kanaibari of Sadar upazila, said the price of paddy has gone down by Tk150-Tk200 per sack. Due to the fall in the price of paddy, I have to take a loss of Tk50,000 on about 200 sacks of paddy.
Mosaddeq Hussain, president of the Dinajpur Rice Mill Owners Association, also said mill owners are facing losses due to the arrival of rice from India. The price of paddy has come down in the market, and so, the price of rice has also gone down. Mill owners are unable to sell their rice due to falling prices.
In Pabna, rice mill owners are reluctant to buy paddy from farmers on reports of rice imports from India. Earlier, mill owners bought and stocked paddy, but now the rice mills in Pabna have decided to monitor the market carefully.
Biplob Sen, a paddy farmer from Atgharia village in Pabna Sadar upazila, said the price of paddy has declined in different paddy markets in the district, including the Tebunia and Dashuria paddy markets. Different varieties of paddy are selling for Tk900-Tk1300 in different markets of the district.
Shamsul Alam, owner of Biswas Auto Rice Mill in Barichara village of Ishwardi upazila, said he did not have the courage to buy paddy from the market that had become volatile on the news of rice imports from India. He feared the rice market may fall further at any time.
Our correspondent from Dinajpur and Pabna also contributed to this report