There were apprehensions that the food situation in the country would be impacted by floods in the haors, and the fears are proving to be well-founded. The spiralling price of rice in the market is a reflection of the damage done to the crops in the marshlands, according to the lead report of Prothom Alo on Tuesday. In a matter of a month, the price of coarse rice has gone up by Tk 3 per kg to the present price of Tk 45. This is the first time in eight years that the price of coarse rice has increased to such an extent. Until the boro crop comes in, it is feared the rice price will continue to spiral.
And now Ramadan is around the corner. The cost of other food items and commodities are bound to go up. This will put pressure on the lower income bracket the sufferings of the poor will be exacerbated.
Not only is the price of rice steep, but the government food grain reserves are the lowest in six years - just over 2.5 lakh (250 thousand) tonnes in total. In the corresponding period last year this stock was 6 lakh 30 thousand (630 thousand) tonnes.
Bangladesh’s food security is at stake. As for the people of the haor area, many of them are not under the VGF programme net. They are going hungry, half-starved.
With the price of paddy and rice going up in the market, it has become difficult for the government to collect food grain. After all, the rice mill owners are not going to sell their rice to the government at low prices when they will get a much higher price in the open market. The government has fixed the collection price of rice at Tk 34 per kg, while the going price in the market is Tk 44-45 per kg.
The government will have to import rice now to ensure food security. Import duty on rice can be lessened in order to facilitate the private sector importers. But the demand must be determined in order to regulate the volume of imports. If this is not done, the price of rice in the market will fall to an extent that it will harm the farmers. It is hoped that the prices will stabilise when the boro crop is harvested.
In the meantime, the government must increase its food grain reserves to ensure the food security of the poor.