Rice prices are yet to come down to the expected level after the big cut in import duty as some unscrupulous traders are taking this opportunity to bag hefty profits.
The big profit margin secured by the traders has failed the government’s move to tame the soaring rice prices by reducing the import tariff by as much as 26 percent.
Meanwhile, rice import by the private sector has increased to a record 1.04 million tonnes in the first four months of FY 2017-18 from 0.133 million tonnes in the same period a year ago. But the spike in import did not ease the price shock to the expected level in the retail market.
Official figures from Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) suggest that coarse rice was selling at Tk 42-45 per kg, medium quality rice at Tk 48-55 a kg and fine variety at Tk 58-65 a kg in the capital on Thursday.
But in reality, the prices of all rice varieties were higher than the figures reported by TCB. Coarse rice prices ranged between Tk 46 and 51 per kg, medium quality rice was selling at Tk 54-58 per kg and fine quality rice at Tk 60-66 per kg in the city on Thursday.
The import cost of Swarna rice currently ranges from Tk 36 to Tk 36.5 a kg inclusive of 2 percent import duty and transportation cost. The importers are selling this rice variety at Tk 37-38 per kg, which becomes Tk 44-46 at the wholesale and Tk 46-51 at the retail level.
Importers are releasing rice variety Ratna, known as Birridhan-28 in Bangladesh, at Tk 42-Tk 43 a kg but the wholesalers raise the price to Tk 50-51 per kg while the retailers sell this item at Tk 54-55 a kg.
Coarse rice sold at Tk 36-40 per kg, medium quality rice at Tk 40-45 per kg, and fine quality rice was selling at Tk 46-56 per kg a year back, according to TCB data.
A year later, coarse rice was selling at 43-45 per kg and fine variety at Tk 52-58 a kg from August 22 to September 10 this year, TCB data suggest.
But the price of coarse rice shot up to Tk 44-46 a kg on September 11 and 12, Tk 45-48 on September 13, Tk 47-50 on September 14, Tk 48-50 on September 15, Tk 50-54 on September 16 to 19, Tk 50-53 on September 20, Tk 50-52 on September 21, Tk 48-52 on September 22 and 23.
Similarly, prices of fine rice soared to Tk 56-62 per kg on September 11, Tk 56-65 on September 12, Tk 58-65 on September 13, Tk 60-66 on September 14 and 15, Tk 62 to 68 on September 16 to 23, TCB data suggest.
Experts are blaming a lack of market monitoring and surveillance for the price spiral that encourages the traders to hike the prices indiscriminately.
Golam Rahman Shaown, the proprietor of Masseurs Shaown Enterprise, said some unscrupulous businessmen are selling rice at much higher rates than the actual buying cost.
He said the government should strengthen its monitoring on the rice importers and big hoarders who are manipulating the rice market.
Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, secretary of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said the government should monitor the rice importer and wholesale market to keep the prices stable.
Due to lack of government surveillance, some businessmen are making higher profits on rice imports, he alleged.