The government decision to import rice is going to give benefits to the rice mill owners while farmers are expected to be affected from such decision, said experts.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) president Golam Rahman said, “The rice mill owners have taken high rate so far. They have taken this opportunity due to the less government reserves. If the government had imported rice earlier, the mill owners could not have manipulated the rice market. However, the decision to reduce import duty to control the market has been right.”
The retail traders think that there is no guarantee that the market price will come down if rice is imported at a lower duty.
However, food minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder while announcing the tax reduction in rice import this week said, "Valid importers will be allowed to import rice in a limited scale for a certain period. We will not do anything that may harm our farmers."
Experts said that such a situation would not have arisen if the government had imported a certain amount of rice in advance to meet the Aman deficit. Until then, stocks in government warehouses would have increased. The mill owners did not get a chance to manipulate the price of rice. The mills have sold rice at higher prices. But the mill owners did not sign any agreement with the government. Now again they will make huge profits with the opportunity to import.”
At present, coarse rice is being sold at Tk 48 to Tk 50 per kilogram (Kg) in the market, which was Tk 42 to Tk 44 at the beginning of this month. Medium quality rice which was Tk 46 to Tk 48, is now Tk 52 to Tk 56 per kg. Fine rice is being sold at Tk 62 to Tk 65, which was Tk 55 to Tk 57.
To reduce the price of rice, the government has reduced the import duty from 72.5 percent to 25 percent. On Sunday, the food minister announced the government's decision.
Director of Research director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Khondaker Golam Moazzem said, “The government should have taken such a decision at an early stage. The traders would not then get the opportunity to increase the price of rice.”
He said, “As the government has increased the rice distribution under its social safety net due to the outbreak of coronavirus and recent floods, these has reduced stocks. On the other hand, the mills have provided very little rice to the government warehouses. This has created a shortage of government reserves.”
He also emphasized on strengthening supervision of rice mills to ensure reasonable prices availability in the market.