Rice prices stable, claims food minister

Dhaka, Nov 29 (UNB) 

Food Minister Dr Abdur Razzak on Thursday said the poor are reluctant about the government’s subsidised rice sales outlets as the subsidised prices no longer make a big difference with the market price.

Addressing a roundtable discussion on food security here, the Food Minister also voiced concern that the decline in demand for the subsidised rice implies that the market price is too low depriving the growers of their benefits.

The government is much worried about the income of the farmers and many take decisions to export a little bit of rice as a remedial measure, he hinted.

“The government is providing 7.7 million people with fair price cards. But at this moment, there’s no demand for it as the subsidised rate is very close to market price,” said Razzak, adding that the OMS (open market sales) programme of the government is also showing similar symptoms.

The OMS is carried out across the country, but the demand is awfully low, he added.

“In 2010-11, about 300-400 trucks, each with the capacity of 4-5 tonnes, sold rice under OMS across Dhaka city and the surrounding labour intensive areas every day. Now, only about 100 trucks are distributing the rice, but there’s no demand,” he pointed out.

Noting that the income of the farmers are gradually lowering, and that the prices at the growers’ level reach the lowest during the harvest, the Food Minister said adding, “The government is seriously considering whether we go for rice export, at least a limited quantity.”

The export may influence the prices at the growers’ level, he said.

The roundtable discussion, titled ‘Food and Nutrition Security Policy Framework: Issues and Options’, was organised by the Food Policy Monitoring Unit (FPMU) on the sidelines of a two-day workshop on ‘Research to Inform Food and Nutrition Security Policies’ that started in a city hotel on Wednesday.

The workshop is part of the Food Policy Capacity Strengthening Programme (NFPCSP) taken by the government with assistance from Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and USAID.

Chaired by the Food Minister, the discussion was also addressed by Planning Commission members MA Sattar Mandal, Shamsul Alam, Agriculture Secretary Monzur Hossain, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Mustafa K Mujeri, Brac executive director Mahbub Hossain and Centre for Policy Dialogue executive director Mustafizur Rahman.