POST TIME: 4 January, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 4 January, 2018 12:24:20 AM
Gunny bags for imported rice could raise prices, say traders
Anisur Rahman Khan

Gunny bags for imported rice could raise prices, say traders

The price of rice is likely to go up with the expiry of the time frame to use plastic bags for imported rice on December 31. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on September 19 last year suspended for three months the government decision to make jute sacks mandatory for importing

rice. The suspension was aimed at holding down the price of rice. According to sources, the price of rice went down because the government decided to allow the use of plastic bags to import rice. But the price is likely to go up if the government doesn’t extend the deadline to allow plastic bags for imported rice.

A jute-made 50-kg gunny bag is sold at $0.79, while the same size plastic bag is sold for $0.09 in India.

Sources said the import cost goes up by at least Tk 1 per kg if the rice is procured in gunny bags.

Rice prices came down to about Tk 2 per kg after the government (on September 19)   had allowed using plastic bags for imported rice for three months ending December 31, 2017.

Meanwhile, food ministry sources told this correspondent that the rice price should vary between Tk 40 and Tk 50 per kg for the sake of farmers’ interest.

The market is facing a crisis due to damage to paddy crops in the floods in the ‘haor’ (wetlands) areas during last year.

This correspondent visited the city’s Mohammadpur and Mirpur-01 rice markets on Monday and found that the coarse variety of rice, Swarna, was selling at Tk 45–47 per kg, Najirshail at Tk 68–70 per kg, Minicate at Tk 60–65 per kg, and BR-28 and 29 at Tk 50–53 per kg in retail markets.

“We are now selling different varieties of rice at lower prices due to the government’s decision to use plastic bags for imported rice. If the government again imposes a restriction on plastic bags and make the use of jute bags mandatory for imported rice, the price will obviously go up again,” Chitta Ranjan Saha, a rice wholesaler, told The Independent yesterday. The Swarna variety was selling at Tk. 42 per kg, Najirshail at Tk. 66 per kg, Minicate at Tk. 58 per kg, and BR-28 and 29 at T.k 49 per kg in wholesale markets, he said.

The government should persist with its decision to allow the use of plastic bags for imported rice for another six months, Badrul Hasan, director general of the Directorate General of Food, told this correspondent.

“We will write to the jute and textile ministry to allow plastic bags for imported rice. But the restriction could be imposed in the internal market rather than on imported rice,” he said.

“We are yet to get any instruction in this regard,” Sheikh Rahamat Ullah, general manager (marketing) of the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC), told this correspondent.

Earlier, the government had decided to import 15 lakh tonnes of rice. The government has already signed agreements for 12 lakh tonnes of rice with various countries. Of them, five lakh tonnes of rice have already reached the country and 1.91 lakh tonnes are waiting to be unloaded, according to sources in the Directorate General of Food.

“We have already imported 2.5 lakh tonnes of rice from Vietnam. An agreement will be signed with Thailand soon to import 1.5 lakh tonnes of rice at a cost of USD 465 per tonne. The draft has been completed in this regard,” Badrul Hasan told this correspondent.

The agreement between Bangladesh and Cambodia for 2.5 lakh tonnes of rice had been cancelled, as the Cambodian government expressed its inability to export the rice to Bangladesh, he said.

Meanwhile, 30,000 tonnes of rice out of one lakh tonnes has already reached Bangladesh from Myanmar, he added.

“We signed an agreement last Thursday with an Indian company, Nafed, to import 1.5 lakh tonnes of rice. Another one lakh tonne will be imported through a local tender from international sources and an agreement will be signed in this regard,” said Badrul Hasan.

He further said another one lakh tonne of rice would be imported from India and an agreement had been signed with a private Indian company, PEC, in this regard.

Terming the rice market as limited, Badrul Hasan said: “Only some Asian countries produce rice.”

He said labour costs have increased and farmers had to spend Tk. 37.02 per kg as production cost last year. “We have decided to buy three lakh tonnes of Aman rice locally at Tk. 39 per kg. A total of 1.25 lakh tonnes have already been procured,” he added.

According to the Directorate General of Food, the country’s food stock is currently 7.87 lakh tonnes—4.88 lakh tonnes of rice and 2.99 lakh tonnes of wheat.