Low paddy price: Is food security under threat?

Shahiduzzaman Khan | Published: May 29, 2019 20:58:08

The country's farmers are not getting fair of their produces. They are selling paddy at a price ranging from Tk 500-600 per maund, much below their production costs of Tk 993 in the open market. If things go like this, how will they survive?

Leading economists and market analysts have expressed their fear that low prices of paddy during the current Boro season could, in the long run, pose a threat to the national food security.

The government also appears to be concerned.  The agriculture minister himself expressed his resentment. However, the Prime Minister instructed the ministries concerned to take steps deemed necessary to address the emerging problem.

The moot point is: if farmers don't get due incentives from cultivation, they may lose interest to grow paddy.

The situation suggests that the low prices will create a financial crisis for farmers which will also create livelihood problems for many. The government should provide incentives to the farmers to help them overcome such crisis.

The recent rise in duty on rice imports is also seen by many as a temporary palliative measure to cushion the blow. The government is procuring paddy from farmers at a rate of Tk 1,040 per maund. The national committee for government procurement of paddy has decided to buy 1,50,0000 tonnes this year. It's anybody's guess whether such a move is enough for the farmers to get fair prices of their product.

The National Board of Revenue (NBR) chairman claimed that some 0.3 million tonnes of rice were imported in the first 10 months of this fiscal year, depriving farmers of fair prices. Local farmers have been forced to sell paddy at a lower than their production cost. They are incurring huge financial losses.

Paddy prices at farmer level have, in fact, fallen sharply due to bumper Boro yield this season. The Boro farmers are counting losses to the tune of 40-60 per cent. In recent weeks, many poor farmers gathered to stage rallies against low prices of their produce.

Market watchers say the paddy prices this season are unusually low though the rice prices at the retail level have remained unchanged. Besides, the procurement of rice and paddy at the field level by the government has started late, leaving a negative impact on paddy prices. Moreover, the food department prefers procuring rice from the millers who are obviously interested to buy paddy from the farmers at lower prices.

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said the government would try to export rice, if needed, by subsidising farmers to offset the price fall.

The minister has categorically said the government would have to save farmers as they are the lifeline for the country since they supply food to the countrymen. If farmers are not protected, they would cease to produce crops. It's a disgrace to the nation and the people.

About the use of farm machinery, there is a need for greater awareness on the part of farmers so that they can use modern machinery in farming and harvesting. The government should do everything to make the modern agro-equipment machinery irrespective of good or bad yields.

In this connection, a pilot programme may be launched to popularise the use of modern equipment in agriculture. These modern machines and tools would ultimately reduce farmers' production cost and enhance productivity.

The trend suggests that the farmers would not be able to produce rice without agricultural subsidy. The government has to ensure fair prices of rice by giving subsidy and taking other necessary administrative and fiscal measures.



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