The government is having a hard time making the market behave as prices of staple rice and potato have been rising in recent weeks
Bangladesh has fared well in maintaining good production of key food commodities.
And despite a Covid-19 induced disruption in the farm sector and its value chain management, the country managed having adequate domestic reserves to meet food demands for upcoming several months.
Yet, the government is having a hard time making the market behave as prices of staple rice and potato have been rising in recent weeks.
As the government observes the World Food Day on Friday, also marking the 75th founding anniversary of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it is trying frantically to rein in the price spirals.
Amid the pandemic, Bangladesh grew over 6% more rice in the last cropping season compared to the corresponding season in 2019, and it has a huge potato production well surpassing the yearly domestic demand by over two million tons.
Also Read - Minister: Rice to be imported if needed
Recent FAO survey finds adequate domestic reserves of six key food commodities – rice, wheat, potato, edible oil, pulses and maize – in Bangladesh. Together, they supply over three-fourth of the total calorie, protein, fat, and feed requirements for Bangladesh.
It says the current rice stock should be enough to meet demands till mid-December, when rice from Aman harvest will hit the market. Wheat stock is good to run till January next year and more wheat is in the import pipeline.
According to FAO findings, the volumes of potato and maize that's in reserve in Bangladesh now would take at least six to seven more months to get exhausted. Bangladesh’s domestic reserve of pulses is good enough to run till next February and edible oil till the third week of November while more of these are also in the import pipeline.
But somehow good stock position is not being reflected in current high prices of certain essential commodities in the market, hitting hard on the purchasing capacity of the poor and Covid-19 induced neo-poor.
According to Thursday’s market price update prepared by state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), price of coarse rice – mostly consumed by the poor – was selling in Dhaka’s retail markets at Tk52 a kilogram, nearly 9% higher from last month’s selling price, and over 44% higher than the corresponding period of last year.
TCB says potato price was Tk50 a kilogram in Dhaka markets on Thursday, which is at 27% higher than last month’s price and over 100% higher than last year’s price.
In recent weeks, the Ministry of Food asked rice traders and millers to not sell rice beyond a threshold price level determined by the government, but little has been followed. That prompted the government to conduct raids against rice hoarders and slap fines. But these measures didn’t yet have any impact on the spiralling price of rice.
As potato prices shot up to Tk50 a kg, highest in recent years, the government on Wednesday asked all district administrations to ensure that the tuber crop is sold all over Bangladesh at a price not over Tk30 a kg. But a day later, the TCB says that people in Dhaka retail markets are still having to buy potatoes at Tk50 per kg.
Food Ministry officials told Dhaka Tribune that a meeting scheduled for October 18 in the ministry may take stock of the production, reserve and price situation and take decisions.
The ministry has already taken consent from higher authorities regarding limited import of rice if the situation requires it.