Government fails to tame rice prices as traders are now charging for sacks

  • Faysal Atik, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-10-17 01:25:02 BdST

The government is struggling to put a leash on the rising prices of rice and, in the meantime, distributors have put price tags even on the sacks the staple comes in.

This has allowed rice sellers to take advantage and hike the price of rice even higher.

Potato prices in Dhaka have also remained above the government-fixed limit.

In an attempt to arrest the continued price hike, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder had ascertained the cost of rice delivered from the mills after a meeting with wholesale dealers and rice mill owners last month.

Fine quality Miniket rice was supposed to be sold at Tk 2,575 each 50 kg sack and medium quality at Tk 2,150 - Tk 2,250 as per the prices fixed after the meeting.

Rice traders had promised that they will make reasonable profits in the following steps of distribution.

Yet, surveys in different stores in the capital on Thursday revealed that Miniket rice is being retailed at Tk 57-58 per kg, totalling into Tk 2,900 per sack, while consumers are being charged Tk 54 per kg for coarse rice, which is Tk 2,700 each sack.

Asked why prices were high, the storekeepers pointed out that although the government set the threshold, in reality, distributors were charging higher prices. And purchasing at a high price meant the consumers would be charged more as well.

“The market is somewhat under control after the government fixed the prices. Although we were able purchase rice in the specified price in the first few days of the last seven, it is now gradually going up. And the mill owners are now charging an additional Tk 50 for each sack of rice,” said Mohiuddin Harun, a wholesale rice seller at Mirpur’s Shah Ali Market.

“Besides this, there is an expenditure of Tk 60 to transport each sack of rice from to Dhaka from other districts. Combining the price of transportation and sacks, Miniket rice costs Tk 2,680 per sack. So it is now being sold at Tk 2,700 or a bit more to make some profit. BR Athash and Paijam are being sold at Tk 2,350.”

A salesman of Pirerbag’s Bismillah Rice Agency said that they were selling Rashid and Mozammel’s 50kg rice sacks for Tk 2,800 each, Dolphin for Tk 2,750. Swarna, Paijam and BR Atash of different brands were being sold at Tk 2,380 and Tk 2,400 per sack.

Miniket as Tk 2,575 in invoices, in reality, they are taking Tk 2,650-2,680. Another Tk 60 is added for transportation. That’s why the price hike.”

Confirming that mill owners are selling sacks separately, Mohammad Russell of Agargaon’s Russell Traders said, “Each sack of Teer’s 50 kg Miniket rice is being sold at Tk 2,750 while coarse rice is being sold at Tk 2,350.”

Some consumers, however, feel these are only excuses by sellers looking to make extra profit.

“No rice is being sold under Tk 50 per kg at the retailers. Price of Miniket rice is around Tk 60 per kg. But the government had announced price of fine rice varieties would be under Tk 55 and coarse rice under Tk 50,” said Mahtam Uddin, a resident of Rajabazar who came to buy goods at Karwan Bazar.

“The government has failed to break the powerful syndicate,” he said.

Tarique Anam, a salesman of one of the biggest rice mills of the country Rashid Rice Agency, said that they were selling rice in line with the government’s instruction,s but felt that price might soar higher due to the rising price of grains.

Drawing attention to a Tk 50 hike in grain prices within a week, he claimed, “Rather than turning attention towards paddy price, the government is only pressurising the mill owners. But the market cannot be controlled by negotiating with only the mills without supervising all parties.”

Asked about charging for the sacks separately, he said, “We are making very limited profit. And from that we have to spend another Tk 52 on sacks. If we don’t do this, the profit margin will not exist.”

POTATO PRICES

The government had fixed the maximum retail price of potato at Tk 30 per kg more than a week ago, but the traders in Karwan Bazar and Mirpur were charging between Tk 42 and 46 on Friday.

Delwar Hossain, a wholesaler at Karwan Bazar, said he could not sell potato at the fixed price because his old stocks, which he had bought at higher prices, remained unsold due to a slump in sale following the price hike.

The government has fixed potato prices at maximum Tk 23 per kg at the cold storages and at Tk 25 at the wholesale markets.

The potato traders have taken the chance of increased demand after suffering huge losses in past few seasons, said Haji Saiful Islam, who supplies potato from Rajshahi.

An official at the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection said that it would take some more time for the potato prices to drop.

The wholesalers have brought a huge amount of potato recently from the cold storages at high prices and the prices would not go down until these lots are sold out, he said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media about the finding.

He also said they conducted drives on different warehouses in Dhaka on Friday, but the traders only assured the directorate of lowering the price after some days.