This year, the government is planning to procure Boro harvest by purchasing directly from the farmers, which has been considered as a major policy shift. The policy will help to assure a fair price for the farmers and boost its stock.
The proposal came at the cabinet meeting held on 1st April (Thursday). The cabinet division instructed the food ministry to take necessary steps to this effect.
However, the present food grain stock is estimated at 0.39-million tonnes against a minimum comfortable stock of 1.2-million tonnes.
The food directorate needs a minimum of 0.6-million tonnes of rice until June 2021 for its safety-net programmes, an official at the directorate said.
Again, the directorate could meet only 47 per cent of its targeted procurement in the 2020 Boro season while it was only 12 per cent in the immediate past Aman season.
It was due to higher prices of the staple in the mainstream market than that offered by the government, he added.
As Boro harvest has already begun in the haor (wetland) region while it will begin in full swing from the first week of May across the country, the directorate is expecting to fulfil its procurement target this season.
In a letter addressed to both food and commerce ministries, the cabinet division said rice procurement from farmers can also help stabilise the already volatile rice market.
Meanwhile, experts opined that the government couldn’t achieve its procurement targets during the last Boro and Aman seasons which has resulted in a low public food stock and market volatility.
The official said they raised the rice import target to 1.55-million tonnes from the 1.4-million tonnes set earlier.
The government recently approved the import of another 1.5-million tonnes of rice from India, he added.
Agricultural economist Prof Golam Hafeez Kennedy recommended before buying rice directly from farmers, there should be a study on their capacity to supply husked rice immediately after harvest.
Apart from rice, the procurement of paddy should also be continued as a logical alternative, he observed.
“An ‘impact evaluation’ should be done after the end of Boro procurement so that the government can take a rational decision on the next Aman purchase.”
Prof Kennedy, also a value-chain expert, urged the government to raise its food stock to at least 2.0-million tonnes to stay secure during this coronavirus pandemic and any possible catastrophe.
“The staple’s asking price for farmers should be fixed considering the mainstream market trend,” he suggested.
According to the agriculture ministry, rice production might be 20.5-million tonnes this Boro season.
The food directorate disclosed that Bangladesh so far imported 0.77-million tonnes of rice in the current fiscal year, of which 0.22-million tonnes were brought through the government channel.
The three-year high import could hardly help ease rice prices in the market as prices recorded second-highest last week, according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh and city groceries.
Coarse rice was retailed at Tk 48-52, medium at Tk 56-60, and finer at Tk 66-82 per kilogram as of 9th April (Friday).
On the other hand, over 46,971 hectares of Boro paddy in both plain and haor areas in 7 districts are massively damaged by nor’wester and heat waves that swept over the country on 4th April (Sunday).
Boro paddy on 47,000 hectares has been affected in Kishoreganj, Netrakona, Mymensingh, Sunamgnaj, Moulvibazar, Barishal and Patuakhali, according to primary estimates of regional offices of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).
Kazi Lutful Bari, deputy director of DAE, however, said the “blast disease” was at a very minimum level which would not affect the production target.