Urgent action required to check rice fraud
Dr Mamtazuddin Patwari, Professor of History, BOU : Sudden deluge, flood and other natural disasters caused colossal damage to crops last year.
Floodwaters inundated crops on vast tracts of land. The pathetic scene of submerged croplands in the northern region and haor (a type of wetland) areas in Sylhet hurt all of us. The preceding year was a nightmare for the country’s farmers as their standing crops went under water. This disaster brought forth a deficit in food in the country. To ride out the deficit, the government had to pave the way for importing rice from countries like India, Myanmar and Vietnam.
This could not deter the traders from shooting up the rice prices. The government published a circular lowering duty to 2 percent from 28 percent on the import of rice from India and the circular remained in effect till June 30.
The importers stopped rice import soon after Finance Minister AMA Muhit declared to rescind the decision in the new budget. The importers pleaded for upholding the previous decision. However, this time the country produced sufficient quantity of food. The retail price in India has come down a little compared to the previous year as its production soared.
The importers did not pass up the opportunity to profit from the situation in two ways. Last year the government lowered the import duty safeguarding the interest of the consumers and the importers. This does not mean that the traders could not profit much.
This time the import price from India has come down substantially and the country has produced sufficient quantity of rice.
Now upholding two percent duty facility means impoverishing the farmers and the consumers of the country and giving the rice importers a scope to make some quick bucks.
By all accounts, it was a move in the right direction on the part of the government. Nevertheless, the importers stopped importing rice and at the same time, millers and intermediaries devised schemes of hoarding rice. Therefore, the rice market turned unstable. The genuine farmers are not reaping benefit from it let alone the consumers.
Price hike by Tk 4-6 per kilogram means the rice importers, hoarders, dealers, millers and retailers are making some quick bucks forming a syndicate. All of them pretend to be saints pointing fingers at each other.
The government should monitor and fix prices of rice on an urgent basis. Many fraudsters may play their evil games over the rice market in election year.
Translated by Hossen Sohel