Sunday, 22 May, 2022

Govt’s Paddy Procurement Drive: Farmers frustrated!

*Millers, traders benefit from slow pace of procurement 

*They are hoarding paddy after buying the crop at lower prices

Leaving the farmers in utter despair, millers and traders are hoarding a large quantity of Aman paddy after buying the crop at lower prices, capitalising on the government’s slow pace of paddy procurement from the farmers.

Farmers have vented frustration as the government has so far procured only 35,000 tonnes of paddy from them till January 10 against its target of buying 3 lakh tonnes.

The Ministry of Food has fixed the price of paddy at Tk 27 per kg, increasing Tk 1 from the last year’s rate. 

The government has taken the procurement paddy programme to ensure benefit to the farmers but farmers are still affected by hoarding of paddy by millers and traders.

Due to lower procurement, farmers are being forced to sell their paddy to traders at Tk 1,000 per mound (40 kg) against the government-fixed procurement price Tk 1,080 per mound.

 “Instead of fulfilling the paddy procurement target, the Directorate General of Food has increased its target to procure an additional amount of boiled rice from millers at much higher price,” said farm economist Prof ASM Golam Hafeez.

Although the primary goal of the government’s procurement programme is to give ‘price support’ to the farmers, it is not benefitting them, he added.

He said farmers usually have no paddy in their hands and as they often have to sell their crops to hoarders and rice millers during harvesting time at low prices to pay off their loans and family expenses.

The snail pace of paddy procurement also gives a scope to hoarders and millers to buy huge quantity of paddy at a lower price, Prof Golam Hafeez added.

Most of the farmers across the country sold their Aman paddy to various traders, including faria, bepari, aratdar, and other traders.

The government has fixed a target to procure three lakh tonnes of paddy and five lakh tonnes of boiled rice from local markets during the ongoing Aman season. Later, the government also decided to buy more 2.2 lakh tonnes of boiled rice from farmers.

The paddy will be procured at Tk 27 per kg, while the price of rice is fixed at Tk 40 per kg. The government increased paddy price by Tk 1 and rice price by Tk 3 per kg, which is benefiting the millers.

Suruz Mollah, a farmer from Kushtia, said he sold his paddy at Tk 1,000 per mound (40 kg) to local traders as did not get the chance to provide paddy to DGF storage.

Raihanul Kabir, Director (Procurement) at Directorate General of Food, told the Daily Sun that they have completed the procurement of 35,000 tonnes of paddy and 4 lakh tonnes of rice, which is 12 and 80 percent of the total procurement demand respectively.

“We hope the rest of the procurement target of rice will be fulfilled by February 28,” he said.

Asked about the lower procurement of paddy, the official said, “Price of paddy has increased in the local market soon after government fixed the procurement price. That gives fair price to farmers and they sold their paddy in the local market with higher price instead of selling to us.”

The current level of paddy procurement is too small and has very little power to raise paddy prices for farmers, given its domestic surplus, to support the livelihoods of farmers and to shore up its stores of rice in a global crisis.

Aman season fulfils 35 per cent of the country's total rice demand. For this reason, the government has taken different initiatives to boost production this season.