More than 600 rice mills in Naogaon district have been closed due to staggering losses reportedly caused by rice import, leaving thousands of labourers out of job.
Millers claimed that they have been compelled to roll back their business as the price of local rice dropped due to 'unnecessary' import from India.
According to the millers, they had taken loan, amounting to Tk 500 crore, from different banks and financial institutions for the development of their business, but they could not repay it due to sharp fall in the rice prices.
There are some 1,800 rice mills across the district. Of them, some 600 have been closed while 300 will be closed in the coming days if necessary steps are not taken immediately, the millers said.
On October 7, the leaders of district Rice Mills Owners' Association sent a memorandum to the Commerce Minister through the deputy commissioner of the district after organising a press conference at Alupotti in the town.
At the press conference, the millers described their sufferings caused by the 'unnecessary' import of rice from the neighbouring country.
They urged the authorities concerned to immediately stop the rice import to protect the interest of the local millers.
They also urged the banks and financial institutions to bring the interest rate to nine percent as suggested by the government.
Rafiqul Islam, president of district Rice Mills Owner Association, said the country experienced food shortage due to a natural disaster in the past years.
"Then the government cut down the import duty from 28 percent to two percent and opened the door for the importers to import hugerice to meet the local demand," he said.
The millers also said the government fixed bank interest rate at 9 percent for industries, but the local banks are still charging 12 to 14 percent interest from the rice millers.
Although the farmers across the country have harvested bumper yield of rice this year, the government continues the rice import from India, said Rafiqul Islam.
As a result, he said, around 80 percent of rice mills have been closed.
"This also makes the rice growers and farmers to face huge losses because customers are not interested to buy local rice," the leader added.
Contacted, district food officer Md Abdus Salam said this is not true that 80 percent mills in the district has been closed. "Except the automatic rice mills, a section of mill owners, in fact, do seasonal businesses and keep their mills closed in other time," he added.