Ensuring fair price for Boro farmers yet a far cry
According to a lead news report of this news paper, only 1 percent Boro farmers have been able to sell their produce at the government-set purchase price of Tk 1,040 per maund this year. The sad fact is revealed in a recent study carried out by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD). The study also revealed that on average, farmers have received just Tk 765 per maund - based on surveys of 2,834 farm households across the country. The study, based on a rapid survey titled "Effects of Covid-19 on Boro Rice Farmers" was carried out between May 20 and June 3 of this year.
Years on end, Boro farmers have reported having to sell their paddy for far lower to government-fixed prices. Not getting due prices this year came as a double blow to them as they had to bear increased production costs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides, they earned 40 percent less profit compared to previous years.
However, the nationwide government scheme to purchase Boro paddy from farmers began on April 26. It will continue till August 31. First, the scheme is markedly failing to serve its purpose. Second, the reasons need to be quickly investigated into why direct beneficiaries of the scheme, otherwise Boro farmers are being deprived from getting fair price.
While 81.1 percent of total government's rice procurement was from the millers last year, only 18.9 percent of rice in the form of paddy was procured from the farmers. And only 1.34 percent of all Boro farmers could sell their produce to the government.
The reason, in fact is simple and straight - Boro farmers can get a fair price for their produce, only if the government buys paddy directly from the growers instead of rice from millers. Every year, despite having a bumper Boro harvest, the majority of our farmers have to count losses while the rice millers make huge profits. This procurement practice must change.
In order to ensure fair price for farmers, the government should fix the prices of paddies with different moisture content, buy paddy from farmers at the local supply depots and get the paddy husked at rice mills, set a maximum selling limit for farmers - so that small farmers and sharecroppers can participate in the procurement process. Moreover, it must be ensured that only government-designated rice millers transport the paddy from the depots to mills.
It is not that our stated recommendations are new; they have been often discussed and penned by several experts in the past few years. Now is the time to pinpoint all flaws in the government's rice procurement mechanism and address them one by one. Actions need to be taken quick by skilled negotiation with the rice millers in the procurement process, since we expect to see growing number of Boro farmers to sell their crop at fair price within the stipulated date of August 31.
Time is running out, can the government do it?