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Huge rice import shows food security at stake

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THE government's desperate moves to import food grains from abroad; particularly rice from some East Asian countries shows the big supply short-fall in the government stock. Bangladesh has a total supply short-fall of 12 lakhs tonnes as per the government estimates. The US Department of Agriculture however estimates the short-fall at 15 lakhs tonnes to highlight a situation of utter lack of food security as the rice market is heating up with escalated price. It emerged at a time when the government was boasting with claims of food self-sufficiency of the country and even exported certain quantity to Sri Lanka.
The sudden short-fall in the government stock, which was reported as low as 1.9 lakh tonnes in last May, was in fact unimaginable given the track records of past two decades level of stock. Rice production in Bangladesh witnessed a breakthrough with manifold rise in productivity in the meantime to give us a sense of complacence that the nation's basic food security is now ensured from domestic production. But growth in agricultural sector suffered severely over the past and the food crisis apparently resulted from it.    
Many wonder why the government was not maintaining enough buffer stock to avoid emergency situation like the one we witness now. Even early this year it sold rice from government godowns under a politically tailored programme at huge subsidized price meant for ultra-poor families. Most of such deliveries were however misused by partymen as they grabbed the stock and sold it to black market. Now the government is running abroad to buy rice at huge cost to create the minimum national stock to ensure food security. It is not clearly understood why the government has neglected to maintain the minimum buffer stock for national food security at crisis time.  
Rice price has meanwhile soared in the local market with the disclosure that the government has no stock to make market intervention. Fine rice now sells at Tk 60 per kg which sold at Tk 45 two to three months back. Coarse rice now sells at Tk 40 to 45 as common people's affordability has come under severe stress. The situation has been exacerbated by failure to make procurement of Aman rice early this year due largely for non-cooperation of millers to buy for the government and supply government silos at  fixed price. Many millers are also lawmakers from the ruling party and reportedly wanted higher price to put procurement of Aman crop to failure. Meanwhile large-scale failure of Boro crops in flash floods in May this year has further worsened the situation.
Many believe that the huge rice import may bring the opportunity to government leaders to make huge fortune. Big buying means big corruptions as the money will come from government exchequer. We advise vigilance against such practice.  

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