Rice prices go up again
People's struggle to cope with the escalating cost of living continues as the price of rice increased yesterday for the second time in just four days.
On August 5, a day before the government hiked fuel prices by record levels, the price of coarse rice was Tk 48 per kilogramme, which shot up to Tk 50 on August 11. Yesterday saw a further Tk 2 rise to Tk 52 per kg, according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) data.
Meanwhile, price of fine rice rose to Tk 78 per kg on August 11 from Tk 75 per kg on August 5, before surging further to Tk 80 per kg yesterday.
Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder said his ministry will start selling rice at a cheaper rate for 50 lakh poor families through a food friendly programme (FFP) from September 1.
The ministry has also taken measures to expand its Open Market Sales (OMS) to the upazila level to provide rice at relatively low prices. The OMS programme will also begin from September 1, he said.
"I hope there will be stability in the rice market after the beginning of the programmes," the minister said, adding that they have sufficient stock.
While businessmen are blaming the high price of paddy, transport cost and import taxes for the price hikes, the food minister blamed the manoeuvrings of unscrupulous businessmen.
"Transport cost has increased. But the price of rice has gone up disproportionately compared to the rise in transport cost. There is no scope to deny that there are some dishonest businessmen," he said while talking to journalists at his office at the Secretariat.
"Besides, we are now between two seasons -- Boro season is already over and Aman cultivation is beginning. People in many areas are fearful of poor Aman harvest due to drought," said Sadhan.
Meanwhile, price of rice of various brands shot up by Tk 4 to Tk 6 per kg in Kushtia's Khajanagar -- the country's second largest rice hub.
Every day, about 200-250 trucks laden with rice go to different districts including Dhaka and Chattogram from Khajanagar.
According to locals, the price of rice has increased by Tk 4 to Tk 6 after the government hiked fuel prices.
Umar Farooq, managing director of Fresh Agrofarm in Khajanagar, said the transport cost has shot up by Tk 2,000 per truck.
Rice mill owners have to use generators due to load shedding, which has also impacted rice prices.
On June 23, the government cut import duty to 25 percent from 62.5 percent in order to encourage imports, increase supply of the staple in the domestic market, and cool down its prices.
On July 7, the food ministry had also given approval to 380 private organisations to import 10 lakh tonnes of rice in July.
Until Thursday, 34,000 tonnes was imported since the approval, said Muhammad Mahbubur Rahman, senior assistant secretary (external procurement) of the ministry.
However, some importers are choosing not to import rice due to high prices in India.
Md Shahjalal, proprietor of Jalal Auto Rice Mill, said his brother Arshad Ali, who owns Dada Agro Food Products, is among those who received approval for importing rice.
"The quality of the Indian variety is not as good as the native one. After bearing all costs, the price becomes higher than the local ones. We've sent our people to India but seeing the high price we have refrained from importing rice," he said.
Saying that the price of paddy has shot up, Shahjalal also claimed that farmers are selling paddy at Tk 1,800 per maund (37.32 kg). "After processing [the paddy into rice], the cost is Tk 3,700 [per maund]," he said.
50 LAKH FAMILIES
The food minister said the government was going to introduce an FFP for 50 lakh poor families.
The families will be able to get 30kg rice per month at Tk 15 per kg. "About 4 crore people will get the benefit, if we assume each family to have four members," he said.
He also said the government will expand its OMS programme to upazila level through 2,013 dealers and double the daily sale limit to 2 tonnes.
Each person will be able to buy 5kg rice per day at Tk 30 per kg.