Rice traders have warned of continued high prices of the staple food, saying fresh imports from Vietnam will have little effect “any time soon” as they will not be distributed for Open Market Sale to the general public.
A total of 47,000 tonnes of rice have arrived at the Chittagong port in two consignments in the past week. The first batch of 20,000 tonnes arrived on July 13 and has already been unloaded, while the second shipment of 27,000 tonnes reached the port city on Monday.
Asked about the destination of the imported rice, Md Zahirul Islam, controller, Movement and Storage, Chittagong Food Department, told the Dhaka Tribune that the government is yet to take any decision in this regard.
“It is white rice, not the parboiled one so it could not be distributed only for open markets,” he said. “It might go for rationing to the government employees, or to flood-affected people.”
But after visiting different kitchen markets across the city on Monday, the Dhaka Tribune found rice prices remains high with traders not envisaging a drop for the next couple of months.
Amirul Islam, proprietor of Chatkhil Rice Agency at Karwanbazar wholesale market in Dhaka, said there had been no change of rice price this week.
“I do not see the price come down soon; rather, we are worried over whether the price shoots up in coming days,” he said.
“We sell coarse rice at Tk2,050, Minicate at Tk2,700, Paizom at Tk2,100 and Brri-28 at Tk2,500 and Najir Shail at Tk30,000 per 50kg sack.
Amirul said the government cut in rice import duty to 18% from 28% had also failed to rein in prices since the Indian government increased its export price by Tk2-Tk3 per kg after the duty cut.
As the price of paddy has gone up in local market as well as India’s hike in export price, there is hardly any possibility that the price will drop soon.
Usually, the government reserves some 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes of rice every year, while 3.4 million tonnes are needed to feed the country in a single year.
A total of 165,000tonnes of rice are in reserve now. According to the Food Ministry, the private sector imported 133,000 tonnes between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, but the government did not make any imports during that time.
Azad Mia, Azad Rice Agency, Mohammadpur, hailed the import from Vietnam, but cast doubt on a possible price decrease anytime soon.
“Around 6 lakh tonnes of rice needs to be reserved for the country while the current amount is not enough,” he said.
“However, the imported rice is not available in the markets. We look forward to seeing when the price comes down (but) it will take at least six months.”
Bangladesh Rice Merchants Association Vice President Zakir Hossain Rony said he expects the price of coarse rice to reduce by Tk35 and fine ones by Tk45, “but to no avail.”
In total the government has purchased 200,000 tonnes of white rice at $430 per tonne and 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice at $470 per tonne from Vietnam to maintain immediate availability of stock in the market, as well as reserves, according to the Food Ministry proposal.