The government is going to take some preventive measures, including control of rice import, in a move to contain the free fall in paddy price during this high harvesting period.
“The government will restrict import of rice and if necessary, initiatives will be taken to export rice,” said Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal while talking to reporters his Sher-e-Bangla Nagar office on Sunday.“We have to save our farmers,” said the finance minister adding, “What we can do from the government’s part is to restrict import of rice and we will do it.” He was talking to journalist after receiving agricultural budget proposals from media personality Shykh Seraj.
“We must put restriction on import of rice, but we cannot put full ban on the import,” he clarified.
The finance minister’s comments came up following a huge hue and cry in the country after rice price fell down to Tk 500 or below per maund during this Boro season, the largest harvesting time in the country.
Farmers demanded direct paddy procurement from them alleging that paddy price this year has come down below their production cost.
Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzaq on Saturday said the government has limitations in direct procuring.
The government procurement only won’t be a solution as the country has already some 8-9 lakh metric tones of rice in stock, while the country will see another 3.5 lakh metric tones production in boro season.The finance minister observed that rice export will be tough because demand of rice in the global market has fallen this year due to better yields in neighbouring and other rice producing countries.
“This year, we’ve been able to grow more food grains. Similarly, our neighbouring countries also saw a surge in food production. Had there been a demand, we would be able to export rice. But there is not demand,” Kamal explained.
However, the government will try to control the rice import as a remedy for the local farmers although full ban won’t be possible, he assured.
“Farmers will be discouraged in growing paddy, if they don’t get return of production cost. On the other hand, it would be immoral for the government as well,” he repented.
“The government has to look after on all aspects of production and its inputs as well as have to give solutions. This is government’s moral duty and I think this is our obligation,” he noted.
About providing incentives on rice export, the finance minister gave example of providing export subsidies on vegetables after it witness price fall few years back. “For this, Bangladesh is now 4 in terms of vegetables production. A greater demand of vegetables has been created after the exports and farmers are getting fair price,” he pointed out.
Not only vegetables, any agricultural item that see much production will be exported to offset the demand-supply mismatch.
Kamal also stressed on increased use of new farming technologies to increase production as well as lower cost to avert such situation.
In his budget proposals, Shykh Seraj called for more pragmatic application of the government’s direct paddy procurement efforts and introduction of permanent crop insurance to increase farm investment amid climate change scenario.