As the harvesting time of Aman paddy is drawing near, government's procurement policy for this important cereal is of crucial importance. In view of the less than satisfactory procurement last year, it was expected that this time the authorities would sit up and take measures to render the procurement mechanism smooth-by removing the complications involved as well as revising, albeit raising, the procurement price to a sensible and realistic level. But what has come by way of an announcement appears to be far from expected.
The government this week announced the paddy and rice procurement prices, raising the prices by Tk 1.0 per kg and Tk 2.0 per kg respectively on the rates of the previous year. With the raise, the buying rate of Aman paddy stands at Tk 28 per kg and that of rice at Tk 42 per kg, compared with that of Tk 27 per kg and Tk 40 per kg respectively in the last season. The government is set to buy a total of 300,000 tonnes of paddy and 500,000 tonnes of parboiled rice from farmers and rice mill owners this year.
The obvious question is, if this is the right price to inspire farmers to sell their produce to the government. In a reaction, soon after the announcement was made, agro-experts as well as rice millers expressed doubt about the success of the procurement drive. They are not at all convinced that with this negligible raise, the government would succeed in attaining its procurement target. This is simply because the government-set prices are well below those of the open market. According to newspaper reports, coarse rice currently sells at Tk 48-50 a kg in the northern region of the country, while in Dhaka, prices range between Tk 54 and Tk 55 a kg. It may be recalled that due to price gap between open market and the government drive, Aman procurement target could not be achieved last year. Some millers have reportedly said that it would hardly be possible for the millers to supply rice or paddy to the government, unless the government revises its procurement rates in line with the market rates.
Procurement is not about price only, although it is the key driving factor. Along with price, it is the easing of complications of the procedures that, too, is important. In the past years, despite being cautioned by various quarters, the authorities did not heed much to either offer fair price or provide the required facilitation. This year, given the looming economic slump with price spiral of most daily necessities threatening to cause misery to most sections of the people, food security is no doubt a prime concern. Hence all out efforts should be in place to ensure that the government's stock is sufficient to face any critical situation. At present, stock of rice in government warehouses is estimated at 1.37 million tonnes. But if the upcoming Aman procurement faces any major setback, an adverse impact on the overall food-grain stock may not be averted. The authorities must do the needful before it is too late to make the procurement drive successful.