Farmers and mill owners in Rajshahi division are shying away from providing paddy and rice to the government warehouses due to their low prices.
The government has set the price of aman paddy at Tk 28 per kilogramme and boiled rice at Tk 42 a kg this year.
In local market, the paddy, however, sells at a little over Tk 33 per kg and rice Tk 52 a kg in Rajshahi.
‘We are getting relatively higher prices in local market than those set by the government,’ said Milan Hossain, a farmer at Raninagar upazila in Naogaon.
‘There are other difficulties too like drying paddy at a temperature prescribed by the government, and cleaning dust and sand, and then reaching the produce to the warehouses.’
Besides, it takes two to three more days to get money, said the farmer.
Farmers say that they would incur loss if they provide paddy and rice to the government warehouses at the price set by the government.
According to the regional food controller office, the targets to purchase aman paddy from farmers and boiled rice from millers in the division are 45,676 tonnes and 1,05,237 tonnes respectively.
The procurement started on November 17, 2022 and is scheduled to end on February 28.
The authorities, however, have been able to collect only 7.2 tonnes of paddy and 46,212 tonnes of rice in the past two months in Rajshahi division.
Alamgir Kabir, acting food controller in Naogaon, told New Age that they collected only one tonne of paddy so far against the target of 11,454 tonnes.
According to the farmers and traders, the coarse variety of paddy (swarna) sells at Tk 1,240 per maund in the local market.
Kamal Uddin, owner of Kamal Auto Rice Mill in Chapal area under Godagari upazila in Rajshahi, said that he had not supplied even one kilogramme of rice despite his contract with the authorities.
‘The cheapest paddy in the market is Swarna that sells Tk 1,240 per maund. I could not buy paddy due to its high price. How shall I supply rice to the government warehouse?’ he posed a question.
Kamal complained that big mill owners were buying paddy at high rates, resulting in a price hike.
Farhad Hossain Chakdar, general secretary, Naogaon Rice Mill Owners Association, told New Age that it cost them Tk 44 to Tk 45 to produce per kilogramme of price while the government set the price at Tk 42 a kg.
He said that they had 569 rice mills in the district and 381 of them had contract with the government to supply rice to the warehouses.
‘We have been supplying rice to the warehouses at a loss for the past three years only to support the government. This year mill owners will also incur a loss of Tk 4.32 crore,’ Farhad gave an estimate.
He stated that if the price of paddy and rice was not adjusted in the upcoming season, the government procurement drive would not be sustainable in the long-term.
GM Faruk Hossain Patowari, regional food controller, said that there was still time for collection of paddy and rice.
‘We are optimistic to achieve the target for rice collection,’ he said, adding that they might not achieve the target for paddy since farmers were not providing their produce to them, nor did they have any contract with the government.