Ensure building a comfortable food grain stock
According to statistics, the country recorded its biggest boro rice harvest in the on going year. The Boro crop is the biggest one in the country and government every year buys up a big amount from private millers as well as farmers with incentive prices to build up a comfortable stock of food in public or government warehouses. To this end, government has been proactive to build up an adequate publicly owned food reserve. This was seen as very important also in the backdrop of the corona virus threat. In the corona situation, a comfortable stock of food grains in government’s hands was seen as underwriting the country’s basic food security.
Government aimed to procure 16 lakh tons of rice by August end. But according to last available credible media reports, about 7.22 lakh tons could be actually procured. Thus, the procurement time has been extended till mid September. It now remains to be seen whether the targeted amount can be swiftly procured in the remaining about ten days to at least go near the set target.
Notably, great enthusiasm was seen in the Agriculture Ministry to make the most of this unprecedentedly bountiful boro harvest. Government bought and pressed into service harvester machines and other paraphernalia to help out in the timely harvesting of the boro crop specially in the vulnerable haor areas prone to flooding that yield a big output of boro rice. Thus, it would be a setback now if the procurement target is not met fully.
Thus, concerns are rising raising that efforts to provide food to the poor amid the Covid-19 crisis might suffer a setback without adequate stock in government’s hands. Usually, any sensing by rice traders that government’s stock position is not satisfactory, produces the stimulus among them to manipulate and artificially raise prices of the staple food on the excuse of scarcity.
Therefore, government must be on guard against such mischief since already such manipulation by the traders has led to rise in the price of coarse rice by Taka five or six per kg in open markets. Needless to say, this unjustified trend must be checked with timely actions. Government reportedly has about 10 lakh metric tons of rice, still, in its warehouses. With this amount it can go on releasing food grain in the market at reasonable prices and the same would result in stabilizing prices of rice in open markets offsetting thus the mischief of manipulators.
Simultaneously, it is very important to help out farmers with replanting of aman rice seedlings that have been damaged and wasted by the recent floods. Farmers need to be supplied with loans and other assistance to carry out replanting of aman seedlings as soon as the flood waters recede. Notably, the aman crop is also a major pre winter rice crop that helps to build up the total output of rice in the country. There is still another rice crop in between the winter and summer which is the aus rice crop. Government’s strategy should be one of setting the stage for successful cultivation of the coming aman and aus crops to achieve mid and longer term ample supply of food grains. At the same time, it needs to rev up efforts to procure more of the available boro rice with additional incentive prices and extension of the procurement time frame.
Government must not surrender to the temptations of so called policy advisers who are trying to scare government into opening a pipeline of imported food grain to beef up the public stock of food grains. Such a move will prove to be wasteful in the long run as there is more than enough locally produced food grains and government needs to play its card skillfully to bring the desired quantities of such privately held stocks into its own warehouses with timely and wise mix of policies and their implementation.