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For last couple of days, the countrymen are experiencing unusual spiral of rice prices. Nobody was there to take initiatives about it though as usually the government high ups started the blame game and tried to accuse the opposition of creating this instability. Till Saturday, the government took no measures to address the issue. As per the report of some national dailies, coarse rice was being sold at Tk. 48 to Tk. 50 per kg. After Eid-ul Azha, M/s Sarna Auto Rice Mill of Khwajanagar, Kushtia, sold fine Miniket rice for Tk. 59 per kg. This increased to Tk. 59 on Saturday. The price went up by Tk. 6 per kg in a matter of 10 days. And the price of coarse and medium rice went up by Tk. 4.
In order to bring the price of rice under control, the government started selling rice in the open market (OMS) but doubling the price than the previous time.
Under OMS, flour will be sold at Tk. 17 per kg. Last year this rice was sold at Tk. 15 per kg and flour at Tk. 17 per kg. The government OMS program for rice faced a drawback from the very outset. Prices are double and on top of that, the government is selling Atap (par-boiled) rice, in which the common consumers are not interested. When they see this type of rice being sold, many of them turn away. So OMS is hardly going to make an impact on the market.
As the majority of the people are used to eat Shiddha (from boiled paddy) rice, why did the food ministry import Atap rice? The ministers are verbally taking about taking steps against unscrupulous traders but the propensity to spare party people must be stopped. The law must b allowed to take its own course.
It is unfortunate that the government has been remaining flexible about rice from the beginning. If the import duty on rice had been reduced at the beginning of the year when rice stocks dwindled to an all-time low, then the price spiral could have been avoided. Rather than taking pragmatic measures, the concerned authorities are caught up in a blame game.
The media has been warning the government in advance about the situation, so it is justified that they will bear the blame now. However late it may be, the government, particularly the food ministry needs to come to its senses.