Though it is the peak season for harvesting the Boro paddy, rice prices are going up both in the capital's retail and wholesale markets ─ dealing a blow to people of lower income who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Within the last 15 days, the price of fine rice increased by Tk4 to 5 per kilogram in retail markets, and Tk150 to 200 per sack [50 kg] in wholesale markets.
The price of coarse rice also went up to Tk45 to 46 per kg in retail markets, up from Tk42-43 per kg two weeks ago. However, this category was below Tk35 two months ago.
Retailers said demand for fine rice [Miniket] was high in retail markets, while they were selling the premium quality rice [Miniket and Najirshail] at Tk65 to 68 per kg. This category was at Tk58 to 62 two weeks ago.
The stated-owned Trading Corporation of Bangladesh also said that the price of coarse, medium and fine quality rice rose on Thursday.
Wholesalers in Dhaka's Karwanbazar kitchen market said millers have increased the rice prices. Meantime, the millers said they had to hike the rice prices as they were purchasing Boro paddy from farmers at a higher price than in the previous year.
"Boro paddy is being sold at Tk800 per maund, which in the last season was at Tk450-500. Therefore, rice prices will increase slightly," Layek Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mill Owners' Association, told The Business Standard.
Farmers happy with Boro price
Farmers in several districts including Bogura, Dinajpur and Mymensingh said this year's Boro price is good, which ranges from Tk750 to 850 per maund depending on quality.
Mymensingh Trishal upazila farmer Aminul Mia said he was happy with both the harvest and the paddy price.
The Directorate General of Food will purchase 8 lakh tonnes of paddy from farmers and 11.5 lakh tonnes of rice from millers this year. The government is extra cautious over the stock of the staple this season as the Covid-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating.
'None will be allowed to cash in on the crisis'
According to this season's contract, the government will procure per kg parboiled rice at Tk36 and sun-dried rice at Tk35 from millers — who buy paddy from farmers and then supply to the market after processing.
The paddy market heated up slightly in the Boro season following the government announcement that it will buy Boro from farmers at Tk1,040 per maund [40 kgs].
Now millers are dilly-dallying to sell rice to the government. They demanded the government to pay Tk4 more for per kg parboiled and sun-dried rice.
However, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder said on Wednesday that the government would not increase the price for millers. The minister also spelled stern action if the rice procurement hits a snag.
Sarwar Mahmud, director general of the Directorate General of Food, said the millers were trying to cash in on the virus crisis.
"They were trying to get some extra bucks. But there is no chance to exploit the virus crisis and they have understood it," he added.
"Millers will not incur a loss, instead they might profit a bit less as per the contract rates," he told The Business Standard.