Priority to ensure enough rice stock ahead of polls

Yasir Wardad | Published: October 22, 2018 09:29:09 | Updated: October 22, 2018 14:41:43

FE file photo used for representation

The government is now attaching utmost priority to ensure enough stock of rice to avert any unpleasant experience ahead of the 11th parliamentary elections, officials said.

It has already reviewed the Boro procurement target two times and set an all-time record target of 1.7 million tonnes of rice which was only 1.0 million tonnes during the last season.

Of the target, 1.4 million tonnes of rice have already been purchased while the procurement was only 0.3 million tonnes during the same period last year.

Sources said the government pays attention to the issue so that unexpected situation does not arise over the availability of the staple food especially ahead of the upcoming national election.

If such a situation is created, it would not be a good thing for the ruling Awami League-led alliance, they added.

The ruling party has taken the matter seriously after the rice price hike in the August-October period 2017 when the prices of the staple hit all-time high of Tk 55 (coarse) and Tk 82 (finer) per kg, an official at the food ministry told the FE.

He said apart from imports, the government started putting more emphasis on purchasing rice from domestic sources.

"The government pays more attention to the issue to ensure the availability of the staple food especially ahead of the upcoming national election," he said.

"The ministry in April 2018 fixed the target to procure 1.05 million tonnes of rice which was later revised upward to 1.3 million tonnes in the month of July".

In September, the ministry decided to purchase another 0.4 million tonnes from the millers, he said, adding that public rice stock is now two-decades high of 1.2 million tonnes.

The government has already purchased 1.4 million tonnes and another 0.3 million tonnes will be bought within few weeks.

Nearly 1.5 million tonnes of rice have already been distributed among the people under open market sale (OMS) and work for food programmes in last one year.

The distribution of rice is the highest since the 1998 deluge, he said.

And 5.0 million poor people are now getting rice support from the government.

The open market sale and other social safety-net programmes will also be going on at the same time, he said, adding that the government's market intervention has put impact on the market as the price of coarse rice declined to Tk 32-Tk 33 a kg in rural areas and Tk 40-Tk 44 in urban areas.

Md Abdul Aziz Molla, director of Directorate General of Food (procurement), said the government has a primary target of procuring another 0.3 million tonnes of rice from the ongoing Aman harvest season.

"We bought 0.45 million tonnes of rice during the last Aman season," he said.

Despite having a bumper production, the government is giving priority to remain in a comfort-zone, considering the stock of rice.

"We will fulfil our target of purchasing 1.7 million tonnes of rice from the Boro season within few weeks," he said, adding that the government imported 1.0 million tonnes of rice in last one year.

He also ruled out the possibility of rice market volatility, saying that the production of Boro hit an all-time high and Aman output is set to be a bumper one.

Prof Golam Hafiz Kennedy, who teaches agricultural economics at Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU), appreciated the government's move to keep a handsome stock of rice.

And it is natural for a political government to keep the prices of essentials within the reach of commoners, especially before any general elections by making buffer stocks.

He said: "Rice distribution through partisan local government representatives to influence the people is now a common practice among the ruling parties."

But he raised a question whether the targeted people were getting the benefits.

"According to news reports, anomaly is found in distribution of OMS rice across the country."

He said the farmers did not benefit from the procurement as the government purchased rice directly from the millers.

"Both procurement and distribution will be much higher ahead of the parliamentary election," he observed.


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