Sunday, March 18, 2018 | ePaper

Rice price yet to come down despite rise in imports

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Anisul Islam Noor :
Rice prices are yet to come down in local markets despite rise in imports of this staple food.
Following the cut in import tariff to 10 per cent from 28 per cent in June, a good number of importers from Dhaka, Khatunganj of Chittagong and Noapara of Jessore started the import process.
The food ministry, however, said there is no crisis of rice. The market is under control. The price will fall if import increases in the days ahead. The government made many agreements to import rice although it earlier claimed that it has a deficit of only 1 million tonnes of rice.
The rice crisis emerged this year after the crops in the haor areas were damaged by heavy rainfall and floods.
Bangladesh, the 4th rice-growing country globally, has thus turned into a major importer, though the government did not import rice over the past four years.
In fact, the government measures confirm that rice import has now been the government's only way out for keeping the price stable in the local markets.
Still, market data suggest, the efforts made over the past two months have failed to resolve the rice crisis.
In two months, 57,000 tonnes of rice were procured from the international market. The government's silos, which are capable of storing 1.7 million tonnes, have only 2,73,000 tonnes of rice, official data show.
The Directorate of Food has not yet started selling rice in the open market, a programme to distribute food at cheaper rate. Other social safety programmes have been cut.
The food ministry has recently requested the National Board of Revenue to cut import tariff by 5 per cent more in the second phase. As a result, the import price of rice will drop by Tk 1.5 per kg.
And rice prices, after remaining static for the last three weeks, increased further by Tk 2-Tk 3 a kilogram (kg) at the city retail markets as coarse rice sold at Tk 45-Tk 48 a kg in recent days.
According to the district-level traders, prices of imported coarse rice also remained static at hubs like Dinajpur, Rangpur, Naogaon, Jessore and Kushtia.
The cut in import cost helped ease prices of coarse and medium varieties of rice by Tk 3-Tk 4 a kg across the country in July last, according to sources in the market.
The prices of all varities of rice, however, witnessed a further hike. Coarse varieties like Swarna sold at Tk 48 and hybrid quality at Tk 45-Tk 46 a kg. Medium quality Brridhan-28 and Lota sold at Tk 48-52 a kg and finer rice Miniket, Jeerashail and Najirshail at Tk 55-Tk 62 a kg.
The government-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) data showed the surge at Tk 1-Tk 2 a kg only.
Akbar Hossain, a grocer at Shantinagar area in the city, said he bought Swarna at Tk 46.5 a kg from Karwan Bazar on Monday which was Tk 45 a kg only a week back.
Miniket prices showed hike by Tk 45-Tk 50 per 50 kg sack at wholesale level, he said.
When asked, Muhammad Asadullah, Joint-Secretary of Badamtoli-Babubazar Rice Wholesalers' Association in the city, said rice prices have been increasing for the last two weeks in milling hubs.
He said, "The prices of finer and medium quality rice witnessed a hike between Tk 0.5 and Tk1.0 a kg in the last one week at Babubazar following a hike in mills."
"But," he claimed, "wholesale prices of coarse rice didn't soar," he claimed.
Dinajpur-based importer Sujan Kumar told the correspondent that they were selling Indian Swarna at Tk 38-Tk 39 a kg for the last two weeks.
He said the prices may reduce further if the government cuts the import duty further.
The food ministry data showed private importers brought 0.244 million tonnes while the government imported another 0.04 million tonnes of rice so far this fiscal year (July 1 to August 8).
When contacted, President of the Bangladesh Auto Major Husking Mill Owners Association Abdur Rashid said prices of Miniket and Brridhan-28 increased slightly following a normal market trend.
He said paddy prices, after a fall, started rising since the last part of July.
"Brridhan-28 now sells at Tk 1,010 a maund (40 kg), which was Tk 850-Tk 900 earlier" he said.
"The domestic rice market has been showing much volatility compared to the last few years," Additional Research Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue Dr Khandaker Golam Moajjem said.
He said the poor public stock is also influencing it.
He said the government should assess the need for grain for its ongoing projects, and for any natural calamity also.

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