November 25, 2020, 9:02 am

Abu Taher Bappa

2020-07-02 09:16:35 BdST

‘Supply rice at agreed price, otherwise we may go for import’

The government will import rice to keep the market stable in case the mill owners refuse to supply the staple at the agreed price, the food minister has warned.

The market should never become volatile now that there has been a bumper harvest of Boro paddy, Sadhan Chandra Majumdar said during a virtual press meet on Wednesday.

“Maintain a stable market for rice and supply it to the government at the price fixed in the contract. Otherwise, the government will be compelled to import rice,” the minister told the rice mill owners.

But he added that the government did not want to take such a measure.

“The millers will face financial losses while the farmers who harvested paddy will suffer losses as well,” he said.

The government will purchase 1.9 million tonnes of Boro rice this year. They will buy 1 million tonnes of boiled rice at Tk 36 per kg from the millers and 1.5 million tonnes of Atap rice or sundried rice at Tk 35 per kg. It plans to buy 800,000 tonnes of Boro rice directly from the farmers.

Refusing to sell the rice at a government quoted price of Tk 36 per kg, some mill owners want to hike the price, jeopardising the government goal to stockpile rice as part of its efforts to ensure food security during the coronavirus crisis.

Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumdar

“We‘re going through a troubled time due to the coronavirus epidemic. Why don’t you make a little less profit this time? You have an opportunity to serve the people. Please serve them,” the minister told the rice millers.

“You have to keep doing business with the Ministry of Food and the Directorate General of Food. Therefore, you can’t just trade with us only when it is profitable for you.”

The minister recounted that the government had exempted the tax on rice import when local collection was hampered during the floods in 2017, and 4 million tonnes of rice were imported. Both the mill owners and the farmers counted a severe financial loss at the time, he highlighted.

“We’ll have more rice production when the farmers are spared from losses and it will benefit the millers. The government decided to buy 800,000 tonnes of rice directly from the farmers to ensure that the marginal farmers get a fair price for their produce,” Sadhan said.

He ordered the deputy commissioners to monitor the sale of rice at the mills. The government has directed the directorate to categorise the rice mills based on their activities, and those will be evaluated later, he added.

“The government is providing incentive packages for the business owners and you can tap them. But the government will not raise the asking price to rice under any circumstances,” the food minister asserted.

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