Monday, February 19, 2018 | ePaper

Rice market stays hot

Imports, swoop on hoarders fail to arrest price hike

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Although the government has taken various steps to arrest the skyrocketing price of rice in the local market, city dwellers are yet to get any benefit as retailers have not slashed its price.
The retailers said although the wholesalers have cut the price of coarse rice by Tk 3-4, they have only reduced Tk 2 per kg.
While visiting retail markets at Karwan Bazar, Sukrabad, Segunbahicha and Hatirpool in the city on Monday, this correspondent found retailers selling different varieties of rice at higher prices than that of previous week although the wholesalers have claimed to have cut the price by Tk 100-200 per sack containing 50 kg.  Basmati and Jira Nazir varieties of rice were selling at Tk 75 per kg in the city markets while Nazir at Tk 70, Miniket Premium at Tk 65, Balam at Tk 58, BR 28 at Tk 55-56 and Swarna or coarse rice was selling at Tk 52-53 per kg.
According to the data of Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), Nazir or Miniket varieties rice were sold at Tk 60-65 per kg last week while the price was Tk 60-62 in the previous week and Tk 45-48 last year. Paijam or Lata variety of rice was selling at Tk 54-56, up from previous week's Tk 50-52.
The retailers were sellingSwarna,ChinaIRRI or coarse rice at Tk 50-52 per kg, hiking Tk 3-5 from the price of last week. The price of coarse rice was Tk 46-Tk 48 in July and Tk 33-36 during the corresponding period of the last year, showing a 47.33 percent year-on-year increase.
Amid the depleting stock of the rice following devastating floods in the country's northern and northeastern parts which damaged huge croplands, the government has moved to import rice from the international market.
Besides, it slashed the import duty on rice import in the private sector twice-from 28 percent to 10 percent first and then to 2 percent-to replenish the stock of rice and cut its price.
Food Secretary Md Kaikobad Hossain recently said the government has so far ensured the import of 9 lakh tonnes of rice from the international market.
Of the amount, 2 lakh tonnes have already been brought in, while another 1.5 lakh tonnes will arrive in the country soon and the remaining 5.5 lakh tonnes will be coming by November next, he said after a meeting of the Cabinet Purchase Committee which approved a proposal to import 50,000 tonnes of rice on Wednesday last.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on September 17 said the district and police administrations were directed to arrest those hoarding rice illegally across the country.
"The rice price is soaring due to the illegal hoarding. Actions will be taken against the illegal hoarders. The owners will be arrested if there's any illegal hoarding of rice," he had said while talking to reporters after a meeting with the leaders of Auto Mill Owners' Association at the Secretariat.
Mobile court drives are being conducted against illegal hoarding of rice at warehouses across the country.
On Thursday, a mobile court seized 4,000 tonnes of rice from a warehouse in Sagorika area ofChittagongcity.
At a meeting on September 19, rice traders said rice prices would see a cut by Tk 2-3 per kg in a couple of days.
"Rice prices will be slashed by Tk 2-3 per kg from tomorrow (Wednesday)," KM Layek Ali, general secretary ofBangladeshAuto Major and Husking Mill Owners' Association, had told a meeting on the rice prices at the Food Ministry.
Food, Agriculture and Commerce ministries sat with the rice mill owners, traders and importers amid its skyrocketing prices.
At the meeting, traders and mill owners blamed the use of jute bags for packaging rice for the price hike, demanding allowing them to use plastic bags.
Following the demand, Tofail announced to put on hold the ban on the use of plastic bags for the next three months.
President of Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Ghulam Rahman said the government should boost the rice stock to 9-10 lakh tonnes at the state-owned silos to resolve the ongoing crisis. "If the government can't do this, it'll increase the inflation," he said.
He also underscored the need for a clear idea about how much rice has so far been imported and how much will be procured under both government and private initiatives, saying it will be possible to control the rice price within two months if this is done.
The government has already signed deals with several countries to import rice, the CAB president said, adding that more deals should be inked before the rice price witnesses a worldwide trend.
Besides, the government should reduce import duty on rice to encourage the private importers, he added.
State Minister for Finance and Planning MA Mannan said when the price of a particular product increases, traders hike the price with much enthusiasm but it takes time to decrease it.
The rice price has started to come down as the government has been working to control the market, Mannan added.
The inflation will affect the prices of regular food items, the junior minister said, adding that Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics has been working to determine the exact impact.
Meanwhile, restaurants in the city have hiked the price of cooked rice, taking the advantage of the rice price hike.
While visiting hotels and restaurants at Fakirerpool, Shantinagar, Bangshal and Baitul Mukarram North Gate in the city, it was found that the price of cooked rice has been increased by Tk 2-5 per plate.
President of Bangladesh Restaurant Owners' Association Khandaker Ruhul Amin said they are yet to take any decision about the increase of the price of cooked rice.
However, medium or average quality hotels in densely populated areas and office areas might have increased the price, Amin told UNB.

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