Rice prices are showing a rising trend despite the beginning of Aman harvest in full swing across the country.
Aman is the second-largest source of the major staple after Boro.
Prices of seasonal coarse rice varieties like Swarna, BR-11 and hybrids are still higher. These are sold at Tk 46-52 a kg at retail markets in the capital, and Tk 44-46 a kg in mill-gates, according to trading sources.
Prices of medium and finer quality rice especially Miniket and Brridhan-28 also increased further by Tk 2.0-3.0 a kg in the last two weeks as sold at Tk 62-Tk 72 a kg at retails based on quality.
Medium quality rice – Brridhan-28 and Kajol Lota – prices also witnessed a Tk 2.0-3.0 hike per kg to Tk 54-56 at retail markets.
Traders attributed the high prices of rice mainly to persisting high paddy prices amid fear of fall in production during this Aman season for flooding and attack of pests in many places.
Experts suggested strict market monitoring as well as easing import hurdles, if output declines in real terms.
The prices of rice are increasing at a time when harvest season has been going on in full swing.
Hazrat Ali, a proprietor of Olima Traders in Nilphamari Sadar, said new paddy of Swarna varieties is selling at Tk 1,040-1,080 a maund.
He also said farmers are happy with the price, but it could raise concerns of general consumers.
It is the record price of paddy during any Aman harvesting season he has observed during his 25-year rice trading career.
Farmers and seasonal stockists are preserving paddy, expecting further benefit, as there is a fear of decline in production, he added.
Contacted, Secretary of Bangladesh Auto Major Husking Mill Owners Association (BAMHMOA) K M Layek Ali said prices of paddy have reached an all-time high in this season.
The season of Swarna and BR-11 paddy has begun with price above Tk 1,000 a maund, which was Tk 680-700 a maund last year.
Production of Aman might witness a decline due to the flooding this year, and the apprehension has caused the surge in prices of the staple, he noted.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Secretary Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan termed such high prices of rice as abnormal during the harvesting season.
The government should ease import hurdles, if rice production declines in real terms.
The government should review the existing 62 per cent duty on rice import to tackle any possible fall in production, he opined.
Agri-economist and value chain expert Prof Golam Hafeez Kennedy said Aman is now the major source for coarse rice.
If prices of coarse rice do not decline during this Aman harvesting season, then there is no possibility of decline in prices of finer and medium quality like Miniket and Brridhan-28, as such varieties usually grow in Boro season.
The government can reduce import duty on such rice varieties, which have a resemblance to local Boro season varieties.
He noted that the government’s stock of rice should be increased to at least 3.0 million tonnes to create some impact on the mainstream market, so that the limited income group people can afford rice at reasonable prices.
According to the Ministry of Food, the public warehouses now have only 0.62 million tonnes of stock of rice, which was more than 0.9 million tonnes in the corresponding period of last year.
Prof Kennedy said the Directorate General of Food (DGoF) might also fail to fulfil its Aman procurement target like that of Boro season.
He noted that mill-gate prices of coarse rice are now Tk 44-46 a kg when the government’s asking price for Aman rice is Tk 37 a kg.
The government has a target to purchase 0.6 million tonnes of rice in this Aman harvesting season.
The Boro procurement target could not be achieved also, as the government purchased only 0.9 million tonnes against the target of 1.9 million tonnes.
Global prices of parboiled rice, however, are static for the last one month at US$367-477 a tonne, according to the ministry data.