After a continuous rise for several months in a row, prices of new season rice have come down even though prices of old rice have remained unchanged following the harvesting of Boro this year.
The new season rice has been available in markets for three weeks and its prices have come down by Tk200-400 per sack in a week.
Earlier, due to an increase in rice prices in the country, imports from India and other countries helped keep the country's rising rice market stable.
Rice traders have said prices in the market usually go down when the supply of new season rice starts, but due to the new wave of Covid-19 infections and a rise in global prices, the price of rice in the country did not decrease as expected.
In Khatunganj and Chaktai – the largest wholesale markets for consumer goods in the country – new parboiled Swarna rice is being sold at Tk2,100 per 50kg sack while the old one is selling at Tk2,250.
The price of parboiled Miniket is Tk2,400 while the old one is Tk2,600 per sack. New Nazirshail is being sold at Tk2,800 and the old one has been fetching Tk3,000 per sack.
Among Atop varieties, Paijam is selling at Tk2,900 and the old one at Tk3,200 per sack. The price of the new Katari is Tk3,000, with that of the old one being Tk4,000.
Mohammad Ali, proprietor of JM Trading in Khatunganj, said that although the price of new rice has come down after the arrival of Boro season rice, the price of the old one has remained the same. Customers usually prefer old rice to new ones and so, despite an adequate supply, the price of new rice has low demand. After a couple of months, its demand will rise and the price as well.
Besides increasing the supply of domestic rice, regular import of rice helps the rice market remain stable, he added.
The government has set a target of procuring 16.5 tonnes of paddy and rice, including 6.5 lakh tonnes of paddy and 10 lakh tonnes of boiled rice, in the current Boro season. In a circular issued on 6 May, the Ministry of Food directed the relevant field level offices to achieve this target by August. They were asked to complete contracts with rice millers by 9 May and start operations.
The directives instructed procuring 75% of the target by 30 June, 15% by July and the remaining 10% by August. Paddy and rice will be procured from farmers through a lottery after registration through an app. If there is less registration than the target, procurement will be done on a first-come-first-served basis.
Since procurement activities began on 28 April, 20,651 tonnes of Boro paddy and 67,728 tonnes of Boro rice were procured till 18 April.
According to traders, the government has reduced the import duty on rice to 10% in view of the continuous rise in prices. However, as the import process was not competitive, rice was not imported as per target. The benefits of tariff reduction apart, the country's rice market has gradually increased. Eventually, the market is moving towards stability through the Boro season rice.
Shanto Das Gupta, former president of the Chittagong Rice Mill Owners' Association and a wholesale rice trader, said that the price of rice has gone up in the wholesale market since the announcement of the lockdown. Rice imports did not gain the desired momentum as the import process was not open.
When the Covid-19 infections started, the rice market rose abnormally. But with the arrival of Boro, the market has started declining.