Field officers not buying Boro paddy from farmers directly
Syndicates pocketing govt incentive
Despite the declaration of the government to buy Boro paddy directly from the farmers to ensure proper price to the growers, most of the country's farmers could not deliver paddy to the government warehouses due to some errant field level officials of the DG Food authority.
However, some field level DG Food officials - the Food Inspectors, Officers in Charge (OCs) of Local Supply Depots (LSD), Central Storage Depots (CSD) and Silos, Upazila Food Controllers and District Food Controllers - are buying paddy from local syndicates comprising middlemen, local political influential persons and government officials instead of farmers.
According to allegations received from different districts, several syndicates have been created in different areas comprising local middlemen and political influential persons for supplying paddy to the government warehouses. Some local officers of the DG Food and Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) are favouring the syndicates in exchange of monetary benefits.
In this situation, farmers are not getting the proper price of their paddy. Due to the unholy nexus between the officials and the syndicates, the farmers are being deprived of the incentive that the government is so keen to give to the farmers. Huge amounts of profit are being channelled to the pockets of the syndicate of middlemen and Food department officials.
According to the Food Ministry, the Directorate General of Food has already completed buying around 3.0 lakh metric tons of paddy of the targeted 4.0 lakh tonnes.
Although the authority claimed that the paddy was bought directly from the farmers, it has bought most of the paddy from the syndicates of middlemen and political influential persons. Some local DG Food and DAE officials assisted them in this misdeed.
The DG Food officials could hardly buy around 1.0 lakh tonnes paddy directly from the farmers in the last three months. The rest of the paddy was supplied by the syndicate members, the officials concerned claimed.
When contacted, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder on Tuesday told this correspondent at his Secretariat office that they tried to buy the paddy directly from the farmers. But, it's really hard for the farmers to maintain quality of paddy for supplying to the government godowns.
"We have also tried to monitor the entire paddy procurement system through special vigilance. As a result, we could buy some paddy from the farmers," he said and admitted, "At present, the farmers don't have paddy in their stock to sell. Most farmers had already sold their paddy in the local markets. As a result, they have to buy paddy from secondary level traders."
He also claimed that the DG Food high officials concerned have been asked to take punitive measures against the field level officers, if any irregularities were detected.
They will take necessary punitive actions after examining the allegations, the DG said.
In an internal coordination meeting held on July 21 this year, DG Food's Director General Dr Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum also gave similar instructions to her subordinate officials. However, no one at the field level DG Food officials was punished for their misdeeds.
The government has been procuring paddy at Tk 1,040 per maund (Tk 26 per kg) from the farmers. But many farmers were forced to sell the paddy at Tk 500 to Tk 600 per maund, which is well below the production cost, to the middlemen as the government's procurement was delayed.
As per the policy to buy paddy, each of the farmers' card holders are allowed to supply 1.0 tonne of paddy to the government godowns. The DAE officials will confirm the card numbers as they provide the cards for ensuring the farmers benefits that the government provides.
According to allegations, the DG Food officials bought paddy from the syndicate in Sunamganj and Kishoreganj. To buy the paddy, they have even used the farmers' card numbers in connivance with the local DAE officials. They have supplied the card numbers by taking Tk 1,500 to Tk 2,000 against every card for supplying Boro paddy to the godowns.
At the same time, the DG Food officials get Tk 2,000 against receiving every tonne of paddy from the syndicates of middlemen and influential persons. As a result, they discourage the farmers to supply their paddy to the godowns showing different reasons and provisions.
Similar allegations of irregularities in buying Boro paddy were received from Moulaviabazar, Narail, Pirojpur, Jhalakathi, Netrokona, Chandpur, Madaripur, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Dinajpur, Joypurhat and Rajshahi districts.
In some areas including Kishoreganj's Hossainpur and Bajitpur, Moulavibazar's Rajnagar, Narail's Kalia, Pirojpur's Najirpur, Dinajpur's Fulbari, the representatives of the DG Food officials cheated on weight of paddy while weighing the paddy supplied by farmers.
According to the DG Food statistics sent to the Food Ministry on Tuesday, the authority has ensured a record stock of food grains in its godowns. It contains around 18.5 lakh tonnes of rice and wheat until August 19. Of the stock, rice was 1,520,422 tonnes and wheat 328,984 tonnes.