The government is likely to miss its Aman procurement target set for this season, despite offering attractive prices.
Delay in starting Aman purchase drive and procedural complexities have been blamed for the government's poor performance in food grain collection.
The Directorate General of Food (DGoF) has been able to procure 453,000 tonnes of the grain until February 6, which is only 50 per cent of the total collection target of 950,000 tonnes by February 28, according to the directorate.
Meanwhile, farmers' representatives said rice growers have little access to the procurement drive that mainly benefits the big traders and their political affiliates.
The government has targeted to buy 600,000 tonnes of paddy, and 350,000 tonnes of milled rice during Aman season between November 20 and February 28.
The price for paddy has been fixed at Tk 26 a kg when market price is hardly Tk 14.5-16 a kg, according to the Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM).
Rice price has been set at Tk 36 a kg (parboiled 300,000 tonnes) and Tk 35 a kg (50,000 tonnes of white rice or Atap) against their mill cost of Tk 26-28 a kg.
An official at DGoF said the directorate might not be able to achieve the Aman procurement target by purchasing the rest 50 per cent in next three weeks.
He also said the ongoing Aman purchase drive began a month later than the date set earlier.
DGoF deputy director (procurement) Alamgir Kabir, however, said they are still optimistic about achieving the target within the deadline, as the pace of Aman purchase has increased notably in last one month.
"But we will also consider an extension of the set timeframe to fulfil the target, if we think it necessary."
He also said the government has a stock of 1.314 million tonnes of rice now, and its distribution under social safety-net has reached a new high.
The government has distributed 1.058 million tonnes of rice in the first seven months of the current financial year, 2019-20.
Production side is also showing a good trend, and Aman output is expected to surpass 14.5 million tonnes this year, he added.
Joint Secretary of Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation Md Mamun Ahmed said among 8.0 million marginal farmers, only 0.1 million was enlisted in the procurement drive.
"And most of the poor enlisted farmers couldn't sell their produce to the government agency due to many obstacles."
He further said the DGoF has a preference for buying dry paddy, while farmers cannot supply it properly, as the processing of rice is time consuming.
"Most of the marginal farmers have no formal banking experience, while DGoF pays the farmers/traders only through banking channels."
He noted the fate of farmers are decided through lottery draws, when only 0.4 million out of 18.0 million farmers have been enlisted.
Big traders and their political affiliates are still the ultimate gainers of the government's food procurement drive.
Agri-economist Prof Golam Hafeez Kennedy said although the condition of rice market is almost good considering interests of commoners, but its prices have started increasing.
He said DGoF should purchase more paddy and rice than the set target during its Aman procurement drive, as rice acreage is likely to fall in the upcoming Boro season.
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