Prof. Dr. Md. Jafar Ullah
Along the last three years, farmers have been getting agonized from serious deprivation of fair price as rice price in the market got down starting since August 2016. This drastic price decline discouraged many of them who moved from Boro rice to Rabi crops during 2018-19 Rabi season.
After a long pause, rice price started hiking since August when most of the farmers already sold their produce. On the eve of T. Aman harvest this year, the price is still on that rise. This has been a source of great delight to the farmers as they expect good margins.
But in recent time, the government has decided to import to reduce the market price of rice. Even the government is also thinking of lifting or reducing tariff by 28% for importing rice from abroad. Sensitive citizens feel panic that this may again hurt farmers with the panic of being faced with the market price fall at the ongoing harvest.
The rice market price is governed mainly by the total inland production relative to country’s need, import volume and time; and illegal control by business syndicates. The recent rise in rice price has been attributed to the short supply and increased storage by the farmers from the last Boro harvest. Retail traders however, blamed the suppliers, millers and wholesalers to manipulate the market price.
Currently, course rice sells at 45-50, while the fine ones at 55-65 which respectively were Tk. 30-35 and 45-50 during the post-harvest period of Boro in 2019. Currently, Bangladesh produces over 36 million tons. The current share of rice import to world business is 0.39%. Bangladesh has an annual need of 35 million tones for 160 million people.
Conforming fair price is a prerequisite for sustaining agricultural production. Rice production in Bangladesh increased more than three and a half folds in the time span of 2071-71 to 2018-19 owing to the availability of high yielding varieties, more input supply and inception of mass irrigation especially in Boro season.
Global share of Bangladesh rice is near about 5%. Rice covers 70% of our cropped lands contributing one-sixth to our national income incurring the major share of investment by the farmers. So, stability of rice price above a satisfaction level is crucial to them.
May 1919 data estimated production cost to be Tk. 1,000 per maund of Boro rice against its selling price of Tk. 550 to 750. Such a loss exposes farmers to become discouraged in farming.
Satisfying farmers is very essential to sustain the current increasing trend in rice production keeping the rice price at a profitable level. To assure this, planners and the implementing organizations have to adopt and execute appropriate measures.
Regarding the market stability approaches, market control is the main tool which is to be assured by the government. In the past, there were some examples of throwing surplus food grains in seas by governments of some rich grain-exporting countries to keep the market stable. But that happened to stop declining market price so that farmers did not suffer. Despite not supportable, this was one of the ways to keep the market stable in favour of the farmers’ interest. There might be some other alternatives which we can adopt fitting to our own conditions. The recent decision of rice grain import may expose farmers to suffer from demurrage to farming.
One point we must admit that in the past, our farmers were seen to cross the government’s production targets for many times. Even in COVID-19 arena, Bangladeshi farmers presented bumper production to the nation in the last Boro season for which, according to Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, farmers will leave more than 55 lakh tones of surplus. We are expecting so from our ongoing T. Aman harvests.
When in surplus, we need to adopt preparedness of having alternative uses with our surplus grains. For this, we should give more attention to grow more exportable type of rice such as aromatic and finer ones. We should also improve our both small and large scale value added products from rice such as pupped rice, threshed rice etc. especially with the objective of exporting.
Bashmoti and Chinigura aromatic rice varieties have more demands both at home and abroad.
Patronizing skilled farmers in the best-suited regions providing them with all the required facilities to grow these exportable crop-types might help to reach the goal.
Over-production related market fall can be overcome sparing some of the Boro rice lands for growing high valued crops which currently we have to import to some extent. As the Boro rice needs a high amount of irrigation water raising the cost of production to a mislaying level, aus rice acreage may massively be augmented which much consume less amount of irrigation water.
The government has to monitor the import period of rice so that it does not coincide with that of the farmers’ harvests. This overflows the supply in the market causing the price drastically falling down. As per various sources, in Bangladesh rising or falling in the price of agricultural commodities is greatly manipulated by the syndicates of millers, importers, distributors and even by the retailers.
(Author: Prof. Dr. Md. Jafar Ullah, Department of Agronomy, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Dhaka-1207; Email: email@example.com ; Cell: 01552331605)
Prof. Dr. Md. Jafar Ullah