There is nothing to be surprised at the drastic fall in import of food grains following consecutive rice seasons' bumper yield of paddy. Reinstatement of the tariff withdrawn following the crop loss in 2017 has further acted as a disincentive to the staple's import. Bumper yield of both Boro and Aman varieties of paddy is particularly significant at a time when most of the rice-producing and exporting countries in the world have suffered production losses this year due to extreme weather or under its influences. This is also going to serve a warning for countries, including Bangladesh, producing paddy. Climate-induced adversities in the years to come are likely to be even greater than before. Even in 2017 when near ripe paddies went under untimely sudden floods in the haor areas of greater Sylhet, the reversal left a lesson for the government. Improper repair work done to the embankment was responsible for infiltration of the onrushing water. Strangely, no heads rolled even after detection of the man-made disaster.
It was not for the first time that farmers were at the receiving end. Actually the growers of agricultural produces in the country are always at a disadvantage. This year is no exception. Farmers should have exulting over the bumper crops; instead they are disappointed as they had been for some years excepting the year 2017 when production suffered on account of a number of floods in some rice-growing pockets in the country. Paddy and rice at the field level sell at prices that leave no margin of profit for farmers. In most cases they count losses. In some areas, the loss is as high as Tk 500 for about a maund (equivalent to about 37.50 kilograms) of paddy. The grand total of loss a farmer requiring to dispose 100 maunds of is staggering indeed!
Now that the export duty has once again been slapped on import of rice, market forces should be active giving benefits to the growers. Sadly this has not been the case here. This explains how the domestic market is controlled by quarters uninvolved with agriculture. Who these quarters are? These are middlemen where millers rule the roost. They regulate stock of rice and its supply all across the country. The trick is to make the most of the glut of paddy in retail market and bring the wholesale market under monopoly control. It is because of this, they purchase paddy at a rate lower than the production cost and sell rice at prices incompatible with procurement prices.
The government's procurement drive has never really clicked mostly because the measure is initiated half-heartedly. Had it been carried out seriously and sincerely, farmers did not have to incur such losses. It may have a backlash soon. Already smarter farmers have turned to cultivation of some cash crops or those that leave a hefty margin for them. What if diversification of crops reaches a level where paddy is least preferred? Certainly not a rosy prospect for policymakers as well as the rest of the population who depend on farmers' produces!
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