Friday, September 20, 2019 | ePaper

Farmers unnerved by depressed paddy prices

Restriction on rice import sought

Economists suggest for buffer stock

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Kazi Zahidul Hasan :
The government should impose immediate restriction on rice import to fairly deal with the depressed local paddy prices that causes difficulties for farmers, economists said on Sunday.
They feared that paddy prices might fall further if no steps were taken immediately to curb the rice import.
If a farmer sells paddy at the current market rate, which is Tk500 to Tk 600, he will lose Tk 300 to Tk 400 per maund.
"Production cost of per mound rice is about Tk 906.50," according to the Ministry of Food and Rice Mill Owners Association.  
"Rice importation needs some sort of restriction in view of falling paddy prices. The bumper paddy production in this season is sufficient to feed the nation," Dr Moinul Islam, an economics professor at the University of Chittagong told The New Nation yesterday.
He said that farmers made a good harvest, but they are unable to sell their produce at a reasonable price because of the imports. "Big millers and middlemen made profit by forcing farmers to sell their produce at lower prices."
"The government should create a buffer stock of rice buying it directly from the farmers. The stock can be sold to poor people at subsidized rate through open market sale. Such a measure can help protect farmers' interest as well.
This can also help curb the market syndication of the large milers and wholesalers," added Prof Moinul Islam.
Dr Moinul Islam, a former chairperson of Bangladesh Economist Association (BEA) also cited that India and Vietnam are rice surplus country. Both the countries are applying such technique to help the pappy growers.
"Rice import despite surplus paddy production are   pushing the local paddy prices low," Economist Dr Jamaluddin Ahmed told The New Nation.
He said, loophole in distribution mechanism is another cause for the current market prices of paddy.
"A proper distribution system is a must to counter the nexus of big rice millers and middlemen to ensure fair paddy prices," he noted.   
Dr Jamal Uddin, who is also a Director of Bangladesh Bank's Board, mentioned that procurement of paddy must be done directly from farmers to help growers get a good price of their produce.
He also observed that though paddy farming is becoming costly, farmers have limited access to credit facilities. So, the government should allow all the farmers to get easy-term loan to grow paddy.
According to the Ministry of Food, in the last 10 months of the current fiscal year, government and private importers imported 2.0 lakh metric tonnes of rice. More 3.80 lakh metric tonnes are in the import pipeline.
In the last one and half months, about 15,000 metric tonnes of Indian rice entered Bangladesh through Hili land port being imported by private parties.   
Until March last year, there were 13.67 lakh metric tonnes of rice in the government's warehouse and it was sufficient to meet any emergency.
"Rice production has become costly in Bangladesh and that has created the problem. We have to adopt mechanization in rice farming to reduce the production cost. Otherwise, farmers will be deprived from fair prices." Dr Ahsan H Mansur, Executive Director of Policy Research Institute (PRI) told The New Nation.
 He said Bangladesh could be a rice export if automation is done in paddy cultivation and harvesting. "We will be able to get the edge like Thailand and Vietnam in export market once the mechanization is introduced in the farming."  When asked, he said, "A high import duty is put in place in rice import. And further curb in import is the government's political decision."   
"Bangladesh witnessed a rice glut following bumper paddy production for the last couple of years and huge entry of imported rice. This has led to drastic fall in paddy prices depriving farmers from getting fair prices of their produces," Dr ATM Shafiquil Islam, a Professor at the Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University told The New Nation.
He warned that if rice import is not restricted, the country's agro-economy will face a disaster soon.

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