Rice price raised artificially

Dhaka,  Sat,  23 September 2017
Published : 16 Oct 2016, 20:35:01

Rice price raised artificially

The price of rice has become jittery of late. Wonder of wonders, the coarse varieties in particular have registered the highest rise --Tk 10-12 a kilogram followed by fine types at Tk 6.0-8.0 a kilogram. Now there is no valid reason for price hike of rice in this country. The country produced a record amount of rice, 34,968,000 tonnes, in the financial year 2015-16. This was 258,000 tonnes more than the previous year's output.

What has gone wrong? Certainly this is market manipulation by millers and rice traders who are out to make outrageous profit. It is not rice market alone, traders, middlemen and others acting as parasites in the system target different commodities for fattening their coffers from time to time. This is in addition to some select items before the two big festivals Eid-ul-Fitr and and Eid-ul-Azha. It is remarkable that slump markets suddenly transform into the bullish. It happened in case of salt, sugar and a few spice items this time. When the government wanted to import salt, local traders first implored that it would hurt their business and they claimed they could meet the country's need. When their prayer was granted, they remained inactive for sometime before exploiting the situation inordinately to their advantage. 

Sugar mills were incurring losses for years because of price slump coupled with irregularities and inefficiencies in management. Now the price of sugar has almost become double the margin of a year ago. Mill owners in the private sector and traders are known to form an unholy alliance to fleece consumers. This is unethical business and a crime too. If businesspeople in developed countries take recourse to this kind of business engineering, they are not spared on the plea of demand-supply theory of free market economy. They have to face the law.

In this country, industrialists and businesspeople are a privileged class and they take undue advantage of their social pre-eminence. Law proves to be a poor tool in dealing with their foul acts. In case of price escalation of rice also, the same formula seems to be at work. The government perhaps had an idea of what the millers and traders of rice were up to. So, it started a programme under which the extreme poor are entitled to purchase rice at Tk 10 a kilogram. However, the move has been frustrated to some extent by irregularities resorted to by corrupt elements at the field level. Now the government has been forced to announce open market sale of rice at Tk 15 a kilogram soon. How soon it will be is going to prove crucial.

Millers, middlemen, hoarders and rice traders are expected to cash in on any delay in such market intervention. They have not too much time to make most of the situation, though; for harvest of Aman paddy begins next month. But by this time they have already made outrageous profit much to the discomfort of general consumers. This is an artificial crisis created by people who have no obligation to the country nor to its people. Like blood suckers, these people only look for their own interests and to realise their dubious mission they can go to any extent. Had the administration been alert and kept vigil on their activities, they could not get their way so easily --at least not in the case of rice. The hard reality is that farmers who produce rice by the sweat of their brow do not get fair price of their produce.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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