Although rice prices in the wholesale market have dropped over the last week, retail prices are yet to come down in the country's kitchen markets and groceries.
Rice prices in the country have been steadily rising for the past few months. Imports of the staple cereal from India have already started after government stocks have dwindled and unsatisfactory internal procurement.
As a result, rice prices have started to decline in the wholesale markets over the last few days.
According to traders, rice prices in wholesale markets have decreased by Tk200-Tk300 per sack over the last one week but it is still being sold at the previous prices in retail markets.
Traders said the wholesale price of Indian swarna parboiled and miniket parboiled rices have decreased by Tk300 per sack over the last several days. As a result, prices of locally grown new rice have also decreased by Tk150-Tk200 per sack.
They said sales of rice in the wholesale markets have also come down. "We are selling rice at lower prices than before due to this declining demand."
Traders said due to supply crisis and increased rice prices the government has reduced import duty from 62.5% to 25%. The government has approved 300 organisations to import one million tonnes of rice.
Meanwhile, various non-government organisations have also started to import rice from India taking permission of the Food Department. Imported rice has also entered Bangladesh through various land ports. However, rice is still being sold in the retail markets at a previous higher price.
Sources concerned think that the price of the essential commodity in the retail markets is not going to fall easily as retailers who collected rice earlier at higher prices from the wholesalers are reluctant to incur losses.
Shanto Dasgupta, former President of Chaktai Rice Mill Owners' Association, told The Business Standard, "If the government does not start importing the one million tonnes of rice from the world market in full swing, it will take some time for the domestic market to be affected. However, due to the import of some rice from India, wholesale prices have gone down a bit. The volatility of the rice market of the last few months is no more."
According to sources from Chaktai and Pahartali wholesale rice markets in Chattogram, miniket siddha rice is being sold at Tk2,300 per sack (50kg) while swarna siddha rice is being sold at Tk2,100 per sack. Siddha jirashail rice's current wholesale price is Tk2,800 per sack (50kg), katari siddha' price is Tk1,300 per sack (25kg) and guti siddha is being sold at Tk2,000 per sack (50kg).
On the other hand, the price of atap rice, after decreasing Tk200 per sack, is being sold at Tk2,200-Tk2,500. Chinigura rice is being sold at Tk3,800-Tk4,700 in the wholesale markets; miniket atap at Tk2,500-Tk2,600 and paijar atap at Tk2,100-Tk2,300.
Traders claimed that supply of rice from North Bengal has reduced in the wholesale markets after the start of import of Indian rice. Wholesale traders have become reluctant to buy rice in advance after transactions in Chattogram's large wholesale markets declined, they said.
Earlier, an average of 150 to 200 rice trucks used to enter the Chaktai and Pahartali wholesale markets every day. At present, it has come down to 50-60. In order to keep the rice market normal by reducing the supply, traders want to gradually bring down the price of stock rice to a more tolerable level, instead of buying new rice.
Farid Uddin Ahmed, a wholesaler from Chaktai rice market, said, "The market for any consumer product is dependent on demand and supply. Rice mill owners have reduced supply to market due to falling prices. As a result, although rice imports from India have started, the wholesale price of the product did not change much. Rather, it reduced slightly."
He claimed that wholesalers as well as large mill owners are trying to stabilise the market by reducing supply from mills to sell stocked rice.
Mentionable, the government's aman rice procurement in 2020 started from 7 November. However, the food department is not getting the expected response.
As of 10 January, the food department has procured 28,727 tonnes of aman siddha rice, 1,074 tonnes of atap rice and 1,673 tonnes of aman paddy. In total, if the collected aman paddy is converted into rice, the government has collected 30,913 tonnes of rice till 10 January.
The government has decided to import the one million tonnes of rice mainly because of its unsatisfactory experience of rice procurement directly from farmers. Initially, 2.5 lakh tonnes of rice is being imported from India through various land ports of the country.
At present, per kg siddha jirashail rice is being sold at Tk64 at different kitchen markets of Chattogram, paijam at Tk54, gutiswarna at Tk50 and miniket at Tk60. Retail price of atap miniket is Tk60 at present while bethi, katarivog and chinigura rice is being sold at Tk54, Tk63 and Tk90-95 respectively.
Asked about selling rice at the previous prices, retailer Md Idris, from the port city's Dewan Bazar area, said the rice currently in store was bought at a higher price. So, even if the wholesale prices have gone down a bit, we can't reduce it suddenly. However, after the arrival of imported siddha rice, we have also reduced the price by Tk1-2 per kg.