Last year’s rice production estimate was incorrect, experts say

Experts have put the blame for the recent hike in rice prices amid the Covid-19 pandemic on the government’s failure to consider natural calamities and mismanagement when setting production targets.

The country’s farmers are still suffering despite high rice prices, they further said during a virtual discussion titled “Why rice prices are increasing? Whose Gain, Whose Loss?” 

The discussion was arranged by Citizen’s Platform for SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), Bangladesh, on Sunday.

Speaking at the event, Asaduzzaman Asad, former research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), said the law has not created pressure on rice-mill owners for not stockpiling. 

“As a result of this, prices have increased,” he asid. 

“There were information gaps when the government set production targets,” Asad added. 

“Paddy production last year was hit hard by Cyclone Amphan. Also, many areas – which are not prone to natural calamities – suffered from unpredicted floods. These factors should have been taken into consideration while setting the estimates,” he further said. “As a result of this, rice production was one-third of that expected. Now we need to import rice to meet demand, thus the budget plan will be disrupted.” 

Echoing the same, Shykh Seraj, a noted agriculture development journalist, said last year’s rice production estimate was incorrect. 

He said: “Transportation cost has increased and farmers are losing interest in rice cultivation. Instead, most of the farmers have started harvesting dragon fruit.”

Dr Kazi Sahabuddin, an agriculture specialist, said low-income people have been affected by the price hike and root-level farmers are also suffering for this. 

“Those who are involved in selling rice, including hoarders and mill owners, are the ones benefiting from this,” he added.  

Attending the discussion, A farmer from Gaibandga named Morsheda Begum said she is unable to buy rice from the market due to the price hike and she had laboured at paddy fields for only Tk300 a day. 

Distinguished fellow of Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya moderated the webinar, where experts suggested the formation of an Agricultural Price Commission (APC) to protect the interests of small-scale farmers, consumers and low-income people of the country.

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