Wednesday, January 24, 2018 | ePaper

Rice stocks fall to six-year low

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Kamruzzaman Bablu :
The government's rice stocks in storage have fallen to the lowest in six years due to an insufficient supply from the ongoing procurement programme, officials have said.
The stock of rice stands at 1,91,000 tonnes till June 13 which in 2009 stood at 5,46,000 tonnes in the Fiscal Year 2009-10, according to the Food Directorate data.
The low storage has government officials worried who think that traders might cash in on the situation by raising prices of this essential staple.
The price of rice has already increased over the last two months which traders and millers attribute to the loss of crops in the haor regions in the Northwestern region of Bangladesh.
Food experts estimate that the total loss of paddy would be six hundred thousand tonnes in the wake of recent natural disaster in haor areas.
On Wednesday, after cabinet committee meeting on public purchase Finance Minister AMA Muhith said the proposed import of 2,50,000-tonne food grains from Vietnam would ease local rice prices.
According to Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, the imported rice will arrive at Chittagong and Mongla ports within a short time.
Usually, it takes at least two months for imports to arrive from Vietnam.
Asked about reduction of import duty, the commerce minister said it is not possible to reduce the 29percent rice import duty before the House approves the next fiscal year budget.
Naogoan Rice Mill owner Nirod Chandra Shah told that rice stock in the country will not go up unless their demand for withdrawal of 29percent import duty is met.
"Why will rice millers make their sales at a loss of Tk8 for per kg?" he asked.
The government procurement officials are now requesting the rice mill owners to collect at least one or two hundred thousand tonnes of rice to mobilise the current procurement programme.
The price of coarse rice in the capital was ranging at between Tk45 and Tk55 a kilogramme on Thursday, 5percent-10percent higher compared to that a month ago.
Former commerce adviser to the past caretaker government and chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman told that "We are facing crisis in terms of rice storage and price hike would hit the consumers."
"In order to avoid an untoward situation, the government has to remove all bureaucratic tangles to facilitate the availability of rice in the market," he suggested.
Zillur termed it too late for the government to import rice from Vietnam as it is in the middle of crisis.
It is not possible to intervene in the market with only less than two hundred thousand tonnes of rice in the government's hand, he said, adding that usually, six to ten hundred thousand tonnes are necessary for market intervention.
The Food Ministry has so far procured 25,625 tonnes of rice till June 13.
On April 15, the government set a target to procure 700,000 tonnes of paddy at Tk24 per kilogramme, 8 00,000 tonnes of rice at Tk34 and Tk33 per kilogramme.
The rice and paddy procurement drive started from May 2 and will continue till August 31 during the harvesting period.

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