The government Tuesday decided to stop its anti-hoarding drive in rice mills following a meeting with the millers and traders in Dhaka on the day.
The government also waived for next three months the mandatory packaging of rice in jute bags. The waiver was announced when millers and traders assured three ministers of a fall in rice prices by at least Tk 2-3 per kg shortly, if jute packaging of the main staple is allowed.
Meanwhile, the prices of different varieties of rice recorded marginal fall in the city markets in last two days.
Visiting the major rice wholesale hubs at Babubazar and Badamtoli in the capital on the day the FE found that the coarse rice of Swarna variety was being sold at Tk 51.5-52.0 per kg and hybrid variety at Tk 50.0-50.5 per kg, marking a fall of Tk 2.0-2.5 per kg from the previous day's price level.
Besides, finer quality Miniket and Jirashail was sold at Tk 60-65 per kg, declining by Tk 2.5 per kg, while price of another finer quality -- Najirshail -- remained static at Tk 62-66 per kg in the wholesale markets.
The prices of rice dropped Tk 1-2 per kg in the retail markets also, as Swarna was sold at Tk 53-54, hybrid at Tk 52-53, and medium quality Brridhan-28 at Tk 57-59, and Miniket at Tk 62-68 per kg. The price of Najirshail was static at Tk 64-70 per kg.
Haji Golam Rahman, proprietor of Desh Rice Agency at Badamtoli, told the FE that apart from the auto rice mills, hundreds of husking mills started releasing their stockpiled rice hurriedly. It has helped to ease rice prices at milling hubs by Tk 2.5-3.0 per kg in the last two days.
He said the government crackdown on rice hoarding might have helped to cut its prices to some extent.
"But it might also create a bad impact in the coming days. Hundreds of mills are releasing rice hurriedly at a time, which could go to the hands of unscrupulous traders. These traders might further distort the local rice market in the future," he added.
Md Hajrat Ali Shajib, proprietor of Olima Trading in Nilphamari, told the FE that the rice prices dropped in the areas, where the government is selling parboiled (Atop) rice under its OMS programme.
He said the price of Indian Swarna rice was Tk 45 a kg on Monday, while local Miniket was Tk 52-56 a kg, showing a Tk 3.0 fall a kg.
The millers and traders on Tuesday assured that the rice prices would decrease by Tk 2-3 per kg shortly, as the government decided, among others, to relax the mandatory jute packaging of rice.
The assurance came at their meeting with the government high-ups at the Ministry of Food with Food Minister Qamrul Islam in the chair.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed and Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury, among others, also attended the meeting.
The meeting was also informed that the government would take some other measures, including removing all import-related barriers, quickening release of rice-carrying trucks at land-ports, and stopping the ongoing drive against the rice hoarders.
The government would also extend the OMS of rice to upazila level from today (Wednesday) to rein in the high prices of the staple food in the local market, keeping the sale of rice at Tk 10 per kg for hardcore poor halted.
The government convened the meeting with the country's rice millers, traders and importers in the wake of surge in rice prices in the local market.
"We will take necessary steps to change the mandatory use of jute bags for rice packaging for the next three months," Tofail Ahmed said at the meeting.
He also assured the millers of taking effective measures for removing the import-related hassles, accelerating release of rice-carrying trucks at the land-ports.
The ongoing drive at rice mills by the law-enforcing agencies would also be stopped, so that the rice traders do not face any harassment, he added.
Bangladesh Auto Husking Mills Owners Association (BAHMOA) secretary K M Layek Ali said the rice prices would decrease by Tk 2-3 per kg following the government's decision to allow use of plastic bags, which would also reduce its packaging cost.
The millers alleged that rice prices have gone up in the country, as they have to pay three times higher toll at Jamuna Bridge and ferry-ghats along with high transportation costs.
They also attributed long queues in the ferry-ghats and land-ports in releasing rice-laden trucks to rise in prices of the item.
"If we don't pay the extortion money, we are harassed throughout the route by charging different cases," said BAHMOA president Abdur Rashid.
Earlier, the food minister accused the rice traders and millers of creating an artificial crisis to hike prices of the staple.
He claimed that there is no rice shortage in the country, as nearly 10 million tonnes of rice are available in the market.
Protesting the minister's allegation, the rice millers said the crisis was created because of the government's policies and failure to take timely decision over the issue.
The meeting was also informed that the farmers prefer to produce finer varieties of rice following their high yield and prices.
Regarding coarse rice prices, the rice millers said 80 per cent of the coarse variety of rice is produced during Aman season and 20 per cent during IRRI season.
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