The price of rice has gone up due to the government's weakness in market management and the failure of its procurement drive, opined speakers at a virtual dialogue titled "Why is the price of rice increasing? Whose profit, whose loss?" on Sunday.
The programme was arranged by Citizen Platform on Implementing SDG, Bangladesh.
Speakers said if the government bought rice and paddy directly from farmers instead of millers, it would have helped farmers get a fair price. It would also have been easier for the government to control the price.
They cited the government's weakness in market management and monitoring and the closure of many small husking mills as reasons for the rise in rice prices.
Debapriya Bhattacharya, co-ordinator of Citizen Platform on Implementing SDG and a special fellow at Centre for Policy Dialogue, said the government's campaign of procurement to control prices had not been successful.
He advised policymakers to make an accurate and reliable estimation of production to give a signal to the market about price control.
Debapriya said agricultural production had increased and value had been added. "Yet, agriculture is considered a relatively unprofitable business because farmers are not getting the fair price of their produce."
Former research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) M Asaduzzaman said even though the prices of paddy had gone up, farmers were not getting the benefits. "Rather, mill owners and middlemen are enjoying that."
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute Director General Md Nazirul Islam said a group had been trying to steal the fruits of the labour of farmers.
"No matter how low the price is in the wholesale market, that in the retail market is still rising."
Rice exporters blamed the delay in rice imports for the rise in the prices.
Shah Alam Babu, president of the Rice Exporters Association, said the government had allowed certain people to import rice, but the number of permits should have been increased further.
"If import duty can be brought down to 20% instead of 25%, everyone would be benefitted."
Imaz Uddin Pramanik, a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, said agricultural products are exchanged four to five times through different market participants from farmers to retailers.
"These changes result in added value. This increases the price of the product at the consumer level 3-4 times compared to the farmers' end."
Agriculture and media personality Shykh Seraj said, "The increased price of rice is putting additional pressure on the lower-income population, but farmers are not benefitting from it."
He urged the government to give more importance to rice stocks.
Meanwhile, marginal farmers from different areas, including Naogaon and Kurigram, blamed the government's policy and approach for the increase in paddy and rice prices.
Representatives and individuals from various sectors of the society also participated in the dialogue.