The government import of rice, cutting import duty by two per cent and easing letter of credit (L/C) procedures, have failed to check the soaring prices of different varieties of rice in the market.
The price of rice, which happens to be the staple food of Bangladeshis, has increased by Tk3-Tk6 per kilogram over the past month.
Fine rice was sold for over Tk 60 a kg while the price of coarse rice went up by Tk 3 to Tk 4 a kg.
Medium quality rice such as BR-28 is sold in the retail market at Tk46-Tk48 a kg.
The price of medium quality rice has increased by Tk 10 a kg and the price of coarse rice has risen by more than Tk 13 a kg as compared to the price last year.
A mobile court meanwhile conducted a drive at a rice mill in Kushtia last Monday where it fined the rice mill Tk 50,000 for hoarding and selling rice at a higher price. The mill belongs to Abdur Rashid, the central president of the Rice Mills Owners' Association.
A family with limited income has to spend an extra Tk 500 to Tk 650 to buy a 50-kg sack of rice, making it difficult for the family budget. The price of flour, another major staple, also witnessed a rise by Tk 2 a kg this week.
Moyna Begum runs a rickshaw garage named Golden Estate in Shyamoli. A total of 50 rickshaw drivers eat three meals there at Tk 100 a day. Recently Moyna Begum increased the charge by Tk 20, so they have to pay Tk 120 a day. Moyna Begum said, “What to do if the price of rice keeps rising like this?”
The food department operates an open market sales (OMS) programme when food prices rise abnormally. However, the programme remains suspended now.
According to 6 September official data, the government has warehoused 325,000 tonnes of rice. Last year, it had 823,000 tonnes of rice.
Asked whether the OMS will resume soon, food secretary M Kaikobad Hossain told Prothom Alo, “It’s a matter of government policy. We’ll start it if the government so decides.”
A total of 30 million tonnes of rice is produced every year in the country, of which 55 per cent comes in the boro season alone.
The food ministry has however estimated that rice production in the last boro seasons was 2 million tonnes less than expected due to loss of boro in the haor areas and the floods. Rice production in the last boro season was 19 million tonnes.
Rice prices started increasing since April due to decline in production.
A 50-kg sack of miniket rice at Mohammadpur Krishi Market was Tk 2,650 last month. Traders are presently asking for Tk 300 more. That means the price per kg of Miniket has gone up by Tk 6.
Mohiuddin Raja, manager of retailer Barisal Rice Agency there, said the rice price is high due to supply shortfall.
India is a major source of imported rice in the city markets. The price per kg of coarse rice at the Benapole land port stands at Tk 44, which is Tk 5 or Tk 6 higher than two weeks earlier.
Owner of India-based rice importer Khulna Rice Agency at Mohammadpur, Shariful Islam said rice price had also increased in India due to higher demand there. The truck fare on the Indian side has also increased due to gridlock at the Benapole port. Currently, it takes 20 days to clear a truck from Benapole port.
According to Bangladesh Bank, a total of 363,000 tonnes of rice has been imported in the last two months till 26 August. Earlier a total of 188,000 tonnes of rice was imported in a year alone.
*This article, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla print edition, has been rewritten in English by Saimul Huda. Our Kushtia Correspondent helped prepare this report.