Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Pak exporters may face hardships on Qatar situation

KARACHI: Pakistani textile and rice exporters may face hardships due to developing situation in the Gulf region and blockage against Qatar, industry sources said.
“Pakistan’s major exports to Qatar include textiles and rice,” said Zubair Tufail, president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), on Friday. He; however, said the trade volume between the two countries is not encouraging and is in favour of Qatar due to huge imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by Pakistan.
The total trade volume between Pakistan and Qatar is around $1 billion in 2017 after the implementation of LNG trade deal. The bilateral trade between the two countries was $300 million in 2015, in which Pakistan’s exports to Qatar was $124 million.
Tufail said that in case of worsening situation in Qatar, Pakistan would face difficulties in LNG imports. He; however, said that it would not be worrisome for Pakistan, as many other alternatives are available.
The population of Qatar is merely 2.2 million and most of the expatriates are engaged in construction and other activities. Shamim Ahmed Firpo, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said that Pakistanis living in Qatar would face difficulties as they are being shifted to other countries.
In such a situation, Pakistan would face shortage of remittance inflows, he said, and advised that the Muslim community should resolve the conflict as soon as possible. The business community said the growing situation in the Gulf region would negatively impact the relations of Muslim countries.
Tufail said that Pakistan should immediately start formal trade with Iran, adding that strong economic relations would avoid political rift. Firpo said that Qatar’s situation would not have any negative impact between Pakistan-Iran relations.


VN’s rice export price hits 3-year high
The price of Vietnamese export rice has hit a three-year high thanks to the rising import demands and the restricted supply.

Workers deliver rice bags at the Long An Food Company

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the demand for Vietnam 5 percent broken rice, has been rising, hitting 390 USD per tonne in the early days of June, against 360 USD per tonne to 380 USD per tonne in late May.
This is the highest price since December 2014, the ministry said, attributing it to the rising global demand for rice imports, especially in the Asian region.
The export price rise has also caused the paddy price in the domestic market to soar. A tonne of 5 percent broken rice in the domestic market stood between 7.65 million VND (340 USD) and 7.75 million USD in early June, up 550,000 VND (24 USD) per tonne against last month.
The global rice market has been heating up after top importing countries, such as Bangladesh and the Philippines, announced to import roughly 950,000 tonnes of rice recently.
Bangladesh last month said it would buy 250,000 tonnes to 300,000 tonnes of Vietnamese rice immediately and planned to increase its rice imports from Vietnam to 500,000 tonnes by the end of 2017.

It will also buy one million tonnes of Vietnamese rice annually until 2022.The Philippines also said that it would issue a tender late this month or July to import 250,000 tonnes of the grain from key suppliers Thailand, Vietnam and India.Besides this, to meet the demand for rice until the year-end, as well as up to the first quarter of 2018, the Philippines is expected to import at least 1.5 million tonnes to 1.6 million tonnes of rice.Other regional countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia have also planned to import rice, while the demand for rice in China and Africa is also on the upward trend.

While the demand for rice is rising, supply sources are restricted, even "being exhausted", international experts said.At a rice conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 29, executive manager of Rice Trader Jeremy Zwinger said that the global sources of rice supply have been constricted. Even Thailand’s abundant stockpile of rice has fallen sharply.In Thailand, in May, the rice stockpile was only 4.32 million tonnes. In late May, Thailand floated tenders to sell 1.82 million tonnes of rice. Thailand’s ability to sell rice in the coming months will be severely limited, as the country’s paddy harvest, having an output of three million tonnes, is in September

In Vietnam, the domestic stockpile is also restricted with most of the rice being exported to China. The country’s new paddy harvest season is in August.The same trend is seen in India where rice exporters are facing the challenge of meeting their export contracts, until the next harvest season.Experts have forecast that the global rice price will increase by roughly 20 USD per tonne in the next three months.They have advised rice exporting enterprises to not sell the crop in a hurry, hoping that the price of 5 percent broken rice would increase to at least 400 USD per tonne.


Plastic Rice & Plastic Sugar rumour plagues Social Media

Just a couple of days back, the rumours started spreading in the social media that plastic rice were being sold prompting the Telangana Government to issue a statement stating these rumours were baseless, it is plastic sugar which emerged yesterday.Earlier, plastic rice were claimed to be sold by China for the past 10 years and it was tested in Kerala by burning the rice samples which proved that it did not consist of plastic, polymer or polyvinyl. The Telangana Civil Supplies department has also tested the samples and found no plastic traces in the rice.

Scientists believe that manufacturing plastic rice is not as easy as one may think. Telangana Government said that the civil supplies officials were put on high alert and raids were conducted in suspicious godowns but no plastic rice were found or being confiscated. After samples were collected from few godowns, they were teted for Physical Analysis and D-Husk.“Rice from the complainant and normal rice were cooked at the same time and the result was the same in both cases.  Rice from the complainant and the rice mill from where the rice was supplied to the dealer were not plastic rice, Mr Anand, Commissioner of civil supplies said.

Before this could settle down, rumours of plastic sugar being sold in Hassan(Karnataka) emerged on the social media. Earlier, it was rumoured to be sold in Bengaluru. This spread like wildfire on the social media driving people crazy though it defied the logic since producing plastic sugar and plastic rice would be an expensive affair. 
It is to be noted here that it all started with the circulation of Plastic Egg few weeks back.



Stuttgart fish lab faces elimination in Trump budget

Posted: June 10, 2017 at 2:09 a.m.

The federal aquaculture research center in Stuttgart would be closed under President Donald Trump's proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.The Trump administration's proposed budget, which hasn't been acted on in Congress, would close the Harry K. Dupree Stuttgart National Aquaculture Research Center just shy of its 60th anniversary. The lab has 27 employees, including nine scientists working on projects involving hybrid, largemouth and white bass, and hybrid catfish.
Carl Webster, the director's center, declined comment Friday, referring a reporter to the USDA's Agriculture Research Service, which manages the facility.Christopher Bentley, an Agriculture Research Service spokesman, also declined comment but offered a prepared statement: "We cannot know what form the final budget will take, and so it is premature to comment on the specific impacts it may have on any USDA program."
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue "has communicated to all USDA staff that there is no sense in sugar coating the budget, but he will be as transparent as possible throughout the budget process," the statement said.
The Trump budget proposal calls for an overall cut of $4.7 billion to the USDA's discretionary budget, or about 21 percent. The USDA's Agricultural Research Service would see a budget cut of $360 million, much of it aimed at research conducted at USDA labs across the nation.
The Stuttgart research center has a budget of $3.6 million.Mike Freeze, co-owner of Keo Fish Farm, one of the largest hybrid striped bass hatcheries in the world, praised the center's work.
A fisheries biologist and former member of the state Game and Fish Commission, Freeze said the center "is one of the very few government-funded warm-water research centers" in the nation.
"At a time of record seafood trade deficits for the United States, it just does not make sense to close one of the most respected aquaculture research centers that we have," Freeze said.
East of Stuttgart on Arkansas 130 -- known as "research row" in the town of about 10,000 -- the center has such neighbors as the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center, also operated by the USDA's Agriculture Research Service, and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture's Rice Research and Extension Center.
The aquaculture center opened in 1958 as part of a research program by the federal Department of Interior into the production and harvesting of warm-water fish -- especially in using fish as a rotation "crop" in flooded rice fields. The center was then known as the Fish Farming Experimental Laboratory.
Its establishment helped move Arkansas to the forefront of the nation's aquaculture industry. By 1988, Arkansas catfish farmers operated 38,000 acres of ponds. As feed prices rose and import fish increased over the last decade, that number is down to about 5,000 acres, still high enough for Arkansas to be the second-largest catfish producer in the nation.
The facility was transferred to the USDA in 1996 and renamed the Stuttgart National Aquaculture Research Center. Another name change came with the retirement in 1999 of its long-time director, Harry Dupree.
The center sits on 85 acres and consists of an 18,000-square-foot lab and office building and another 10,000 square feet of "wet labs," where fish are hatched, raised and tested in a series of tanks and troughs.
Bo Collins of Mena, executive director of the Catfish Farmers of Arkansas, said the loss of the Stuttgart center would be a blow to an industry still struggling against imported fish."That lab has contributed greatly to the United States aquaculture industry," Collins said. "The lab goes back to the 1950s but, of course, it has changed a lot since then. It did a lot of the early research into nutrition, diseases and a host of other issues."
Collins worked at the center from 1985 until his retirement in 2003, with his last job being director of technical assistance.Of the Trump administration's proposed budget, Collins said, "It's hard to say what, in fact, is actually going to happen. But if things continue to go the way they seem to now, that center will be gone."
Collins said he didn't blame Trump himself. The president, Collins said, ordered federal agencies to find at least 15 percent in budget cuts. "It was the higher-ups in the [Agriculture Research Service] who put the center on the chopping block," he said.

Wholesale business takes a hit in Hyderabad after rumours of plastic rice


By Express News Service  |   Published: 11th June 2017 06:33 AM  |  
Last Updated: 11th June 2017 06:33 AM  

HYDERABAD: The social media-fuelled rumour of ‘plastic rice’ being sold in the city has finally begun taking a toll as the sale of rice has registered a 70 per cent drop for wholesale dealers in Hyderabad. This has also led to a 50 per cent drop in production at rice mills. This is despite the Civil Supplies department’s attempts to douse the rumours by debunking the claims of plastic rice being in city shops.  
“We have witnessed a drop of 60 to 70 per cent sales over the week. Retail shop owners who buy from us are yet to get rid of their stocks. People are believing rumours and even the media is spreading fear among public,” said Siva Reddy Aluva, proprietor of Sambashiva Rice Traders, Yousufguda.
“There has been a 30 per cent drop in sales for me,” said Srikanth Reddy, owner of GJR Chaawal Wholesale And Retail Rice Distributor, Chikkadpalli. Both rice dealers attributed the drop to fake stories spreading via social media.
The rumours kicked off almost a month ago with a YouTube video wherein a ball of cooked rice was shown bouncing off the ground. The video claimed that the ball of rice bounced as it (rice) was made of plastic. The claim has been, however, debunked. But within days of the video being uploaded, its regional variants making the same claim of started gaining viewership. The hoax eventually went viral affecting the sale of rice in the city. 

Civil supplies dept debunks rumours
The civil supplies department on Wednesday debunked the rumour by replicating the bouncing property using rice. The department conducted the test from samples collected based on a complaint. 
“People are believing rumours and not the news. The finest quality of rice sells for Rs 60 a kg. Where is the logic of adding Rs 140 per kg worth of plastic to that? People should think before they believe anything,” said Srikanth. 
While some rice millers say that their business has taken a hit, others claim there is no problem over the rumours of plastic rice. “We are not facing any problem, it’s business as usual and production at our mills are going on as usual,” said Pabba Balaiah, president, Hyderabad Rice Millers Association.
However, another member of the association said, “The rumour did affect as much as 25 to 30 per cent of rice sales across Telangana, leading to a drop in demand and this has in turn resulted in a 50 per cent drop in production.

This rice miller’s cry falling on deaf ears!

Source: The Hitavada     
Date: 11 Jun 2017 09:24:49

Staff Reporter,RAIPUR,
Jun 10,
After destruction of procured paddy stockpile in a manmade flood 3 years ago, a rice miller of Tilda has been mired into deep financial trouble. Neither insurance company nor has the Government provided any compensation for the loss even till date.
In a press conference on Friday, Rakesh Agrawal informed how reckless attitude of GMR Energy Limited Company led to the disaster, which has economically destroyed him. Agrawal said that a giant pipeline of the company was laid in front of his rice mill, where he had stored the Government paddy for milling works, suddenly burst and flooded the entire mill having 22,326 quintal paddy on June 14, 2014.
Water has destroyed the stored paddy, causing him a loss to the tune of Rs 5.5 crore. It was the Government’s responsibility to protect the paddy stock stored at his mill, in which it failed. He also lodged a complaint with the Kharora Police station regarding the same, no action was taken against the company.
Now he has been buried under the debt and on top of that Government has sent him letter for the recovery of paddy procured in 2013-14, but no attention was paid to his complaints. He has crores of bank loans pending on his name and it’s difficult to even bear the routine home expenses for him. Agrawal demanded justice from the Government by getting him compensation from GMR Company.

Cook’s corner 'The Secret’s in the Spice Mix'

PublishedJun 11, 2017, 7:11 am IST
UpdatedJun 11, 2017, 7:11 am IST
India’s first MasterChef, Pankaj Bhadouria,identifies 50 spice mixes from India and around the world in this one-of-a-kind book.
 The Secret’s in the Spice Mix, by Pankaj Bhadouria, Penguin Random House, Rs 399
The right combination of spices is crucial to Indian cooking and is the reason why some dishes are so hard to resist. But why buy spice mixes when you can make them yourself! India’s first MasterChef, Pankaj Bhadouria,identifies 50 spice mixes from India and around the world in this one-of-a-kind book.
Instant Rice Kheer Mix

This recipe was an instant invention! While conducting trials for this book, a team member asked me if we could replicate some ready-to-cook desserts available off the shelves. At our very first trial, it was an immediate hit!
25 g basmati rice
1 tbsp chopped almonds
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp chopped pistachios
1 tsp cardamom powder
2 tbsp milk powder
Roast the rice on very low heat till it is lightly coloured. Grind it to a coarse powder. Mix all the ingredients well. Store in an airtight container.
Thick, creamy, with all the earthiness of slow-cooked rice kheer, this instant version is as good as it gets!
2 tbsp instant rice kheer mix
500 ml milk
4 tbsp sugar
Mix the instant kheer mix with the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan and cook on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring all the time to prevent lumps from forming. Cook for 7-8 minutes or till the rice is thoroughly cooked. Add sugar, cook for a few more minutes and then remove from heat. Allow to cool before serving.

Govt to transfer Tk369 cr from procurement funds

Published at 12:53 AM June 12, 2017
File Photo:Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh produces around 34 million tonnes of rice annually, which it uses to feed its population

The government has decided to transfer Tk369 cr from the local rice and wheat procurement programme aiming to meet the import demand, officials said.The import is planned from Vietnam and other rice producing countries, the officials said, adding, private importers will be engaged in the process.The development came as the Food Ministry failed to  procure rice from farmers across the country due to high prices of their produce.

The ministries of finance and food, after a long negotiation, came up with the move to transfer funds from procurement allocation to import rice, as the allocation to procure wheat, rice and paddy was not utilised due to high price charged by farmers and rice millers.The situation was created as the government had set Tk37.40 for per kilogram rice, while each per kg coarse rice is selling between Tk 45 and Tk50 per kilogram, a Finance Ministry official said.Considering the situation, the government has no other choice, but to stop procuring rice and mulling of rice import, instead, he said.

A latest Food Ministry data shows that around 2.17 lakh tonnes of rice were in stock at public warehouses, the figure dropped to a six-year low of 1.98 lakh tonnes on June 7.Despite the low rice stock Food Minister Qamrul Islam said: “Our stock situation is now good. Then again, the prices of rice have increased in parts of the country.”He said the government has planned to stock 10 lakh tonnes of rice through import.An the international media data says Vietnamese rice prices, averaging $367.50 per tonne, are at an 11-month high.

The prices kept soaring every week with many fearing that it would not be wise for Bangladesh to import rice from the country.In the revised budget, only Tk1472.67 cr was left after procuring rice, wheat and paddy of Tk4,155 cr.Of the remaining amount, the government has decided to transfer Tk369 cr for importing rice from Vietnam and procuring from other importers.The Food Ministry says 13,209 tonnes of rice were procured until June 7, while the government and private sector imported 4,623 tonnes of rice. The government imported just 417  tonnes.

Bangladesh produces around 34 million tonnes of rice annually, which it uses to feed its population.Food Ministry at a recent meeting of cabinet committee on public purchase proposed import of 1 lakh tonne rice by M/S Agrocorp International Pte Ltd and M/S Sukhbir Agro Energy Ltd at an estimated cost of Tk 345 cr
Rice price: Govt faces double whammy
It appears rather surprising that the government did not make any move to import rice in time when its own stock had gone below 0.5 million tonnes. The government is supposed to always maintain a buffer food stock, at least, above 1.0 million tonnes, writes Shamsul Huq Zahid
The price of the main staple, rice, has reached all-time high. The coarse variety of rice is now being sold at Tk 50 a kg and the finer variety at well above Tk 60 a kg.

The uptrend in rice price has been persisting for many months. The expectation was that the price would reasonably come down after the harvest of Boro rice that is grown extensively in a risk-free weather conditions. But the hope was dashed because of the severe damage caused to Boro rice in haor areas by flash floods this year. The natural calamity struck with full venom when the farmers were making preparations for harvesting. Nearly one-third of Boro rice yield of the country comes from haor areas. 
There were other reasons behind the unabated rise in the price of rice in recent months. The private-level import of rice was one of the lowest in the outgoing financial year because of the imposition of 25 per cent duty on rice import. The government also did not import rice despite the fact that its own stock of the main staple was dwindling fast.
The quantity of rice in the government stock is now at the record lowest level, less than 200,000 metric tonnes. With this kind of stock position, the government has lost the capacity to intervene in the market. That the government is now incapacitated by insufficient stock of rice is very much evident from the conspicuous absence of open-market sale (OMS) of rice at reduced price for the poor people.
With low private sector import and dwindling government stock, it is more or less obvious that the rice price would further go up. Amidst such a price situation, the government is now making a belated move to beef up its rice stock. On the home front, it has largely remained unsuccessful in its bid. The rice millers are reluctant to supply rice to the government since the price offered by the government is well below the price now prevailing in the market.

Until now the government, reportedly, has been able to procure a paltry quantity of 11,000 tonnes as against the target of procuring 0.9 million tonnes of Boro this year. During the last Boro season the government procured more than 1.0 million tonnes.  It is unlikely that the government would be able to procure even one-fifth of its target amount this time.

So, replenishment of the government food stock is as important as the availability of rice with the rice millers and private rice traders. The government's food stock is very much known as the directorate of food on the daily basis uploads relevant data on its website. But nothing is known about the availability of rice with the millers and rice importers in particular. There is no way of knowing it.

Though belated the government is now trying frantically to import rice as early as possible. The food minister last month went to Vietnam and signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the import of a substantial quantity of rice from that country. A Vietnamese delegation is reportedly due to visit Dhaka this month to finalise the quantity and price.
But the belated move on the part of the ministry of food is going to cost the public exchequer an additional amount. The rice price that has been fairly low in recent years has started rising following the shortfall in production of the food item in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. India, Thailand and Vietnam have already raised the export price of rice. Rice production in China has also suffered setback this year. If China starts procuring rice from the international market, the price may go up even further.

It appears rather surprising that the government did not make any move to import rice in time when its own stock had gone below 0.5 million tonnes. The government is supposed to always maintain a buffer food stock, at least, above 1.0 million tonnes. The availability of rice in sufficient volume in the market is also important. Higher import by the government to build its own stock would any way help beef up the supply of the item in the market. The availability of rice with the millers and traders is very important. So, it would be prudent on the part of the government to waive or substantially reduce the duty on rice import and help the rice market cool down.
There is no denying that high rice price has helped farmers this season. But the high rice price is hurting many marginal farmers, poor and low income people. If the rice price goes up further, the poor would suffer more. Rice price is a politically sensitive issue. The government is expected to handle it with both care and caution.


PHL seen importing more rice, meat

The Philippines is projected to import at least 1.5 million metric tons (MMT) of rice this year, 53.33 percent more than the estimated 700,000 metric tons (MT) the country purchased from abroad last year.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) made this estimate in its latest biannual report, titled “Food Outlook: Biannual Report on Global Food Markets”.
The FAO attributed the increase in Philippine rice imports to the expected expiration of the World Trade Organization’s waiver on rice this year. It also said the country will be one of the main drivers for the sustained trade of the grain in Asia.
“Asia is anticipated to account for nearly all of the forecast growth, importing a total of 21.3 MMT, up 11 percent year-on-year,” the report read.
“The expansion is expected to be facilitated by the removal of import duties in various countries in the region or the reengagement of governments in imports in an attempt to keep domestic quotations under control or refurbish reserves,” it added.
Aside from the Philippines, the FAO said Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are expected to expand its grain purchases this year.
The United Nations unit forecasted that the total volume of rice that would be traded this year would reach 43.6 MMT, 4.81 percent higher than the 41.6 MMT recorded last year.
The FAO also noted that the price of rice for exports has started to go up after the Philippines and Bangladesh have sent signals that it would import more rice this year.
“Quotations of the most-widely traded Indica rice proved more stable during the first quarter of 2017, but have since gathered speed, amid seasonal tightness and prospects of a return of important buyers to the market, in particular Bangladesh and the Philippines,” the report read.
In a separate report, the Agricultural Market Information System (Amis) reported that the increase in the price quotas of rice exports in the region was prompted by the sudden announcement of the Philippines that it would import 250,000 MT of rice. Amis is the FAO’s marketing outlook arm.
“In addition to shipments to near East Asia and parts of Africa ahead of Ramadan, underpinning came from expectations of near-term buying interest from the Philippines, where National Food Authority stocks were at close to three-year lows,” Amis said in its “June Market Monitor” report.
The FAO estimated that Philippine milled-rice production this year would reach 12.14 MMT, slightly higher than its 2016 estimated output of 12.11 MMT.
The UN unit pegged the global milled-rice production this year at 502.6 MMT, higher than the 499.3 MMT recorded in 2016.
The Department of Agriculture is targeting to produce 18.57 MMT of paddy rice this year, 5.33 percent higher than last year’s output of 17.63 MMT.
Meat imports
In the same report, the FAO projected that Philippine meat production in 2017 would expand by 3.4 percent to 3.612 MMT, from 3.493 MMT recorded last year.
FAO data showed pork would account for more than half, or 53.98 percent, of the country’s total meat production this year. The country’s hog-meat output this year is expected to reach 1.95 MMT, 4.5 percent higher than the 1.866 MMT produced last year.
Despite this, the FAO projected that the Philippines would purchase more meat from abroad this year. Data from the FAO showed that the country would import 552,000 MT of meat, 6.97 percent higher than the 516,000 MT it purchased last year.

International rice prices soar as Bangladesh seeks import
Iftekhar Mahmud | Update: 12:48, Jun 11, 2017
Bangladesh has been seeking to import rice from other countries to meet domestic demands, but now prices in the international market have started to soar. There are all signs of a big crisis in the global rice market, according to international agencies.Sri Lanka had been trying to procure rice from the international market prior to Bangladesh and now the Philippines has joined the search too. China, which produces the most rice, has seen a slump in production this year. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says if this country, self-sufficient in food, begins to import rice from the global market, there is all likelihood that rice prices will go up further.

Within Bangladesh, rice prices are at an all-time high. The rice procurement drive has been a failure so far. Rice in government stock is at the lowest and no time soon will rice be imported from the international market. Bangladesh is at a loss in face of this crisis.
According to the food ministry reports, this week coarse rice sold in Dhaka’s markets at Tk 45 to 48 per kg. The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) says that over the past one year, rice prices in the country have gone up 42 per cent. Mid and fine grain rice sells between Tk 48 to Tk 56 per kg.
Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Emeritus fellow M Asaduzzaman told Prothom Alo that in keeping with production and supply within the country, there is no way that the price of rice should be Tk 48. Traders are well aware that given their depleted stock, the government cannot intervene in the market. The government also has no idea how much the rice mills and traders have in stock.
The Bangladesh government has signed an MOU to purchase 1 million tonnes of rice from Vietnam. Over the last month Vietnam raised its rice price by Tk 1120 or US$ 12 per tonnes. The food ministry is looking expressed interest in importing 700 thousand tonnes of rice from India and Thailand. These two countries too have raised their rice prices over the past month by US$ 8 and US$ 13 per tonne respectively.
M Asaduzzaman, an expert in the field, blames the food ministry and minister for this predicament. He points out that the government’s rice stock has fallen below 200 thousand tonnes, whereas it should be 600 thousand tonnes at least. The moment the stock fell below 500 thousand tonnes, the minister should have taken initiative to replenish the stock. Such irresponsible behavoiur over a politically sensitive matter as rice would have cost the job of the food minister in India or the UK.
Former director general of BIDS Kazi Shahabuddin told Prothom Alo that rice prices in the international market are going up. The government should immediately import price before the prices escalate further. Opportunity must be given to private sector rice import by cutting import duty. If not, a crisis will emerge and the prices will be even steeper.
Director general of the food directorate Badrul Hasan told Prothom Alo, “There are laws to take action against the rice mills which refuse to give the government grain. We are compiling a list of such mills. Those who are supplying rice to the government will be given priority and special facilities next year.”
Speaking to Prothom Alo agitatedly, food minister Kamrul Islam said, “You all wrote that the people of Bangladesh are eating less rice. Now what will you write? That they are eating rice starch?”
About rising rice prices in the international market, the minister said, “There is no hide-and-seek about international rice prices. It’s all there on the Internet.”
After an MOU is signed, it takes about two months for the rice to arrive from abroad. The food minister went to Vietnam and this month a delegation from Vietnam will come to negotiate prices and other details. Then it will take another month to send the rice. So Bangladesh will be having to purchase rice at the future higher prices from Vietnam, India and Thailand.

In the meantime, the government has no tool to control rice prices in the interim period. It’s all in the hands of the businesses. The government is simply waiting and watching for the supply to go up and the prices to fall.

Telangana: Loopholes identified, being plugged, says Civil Supplies Commissioner

Published Jun 12, 2017, 1:23 am IST
Updated Jun 12, 2017, 2:48 am IST
The Civil Supplies department had identified several grey areas in the whole public distribution system.
 Civil Supplies commissioner CV Anand
Hyderabad: Several loopholes need to be plugged in the subsidised rice scheme, including issuance of new ration cards that has been pending for the last three years.
The Civil Supplies department had identified several grey areas in the whole public distribution system.The most important of these is the identification of eligible beneficiaries. Of the total 3.5 crore population of Telangana state, around 2.75 crore (nearly 80 per cent of the total population) are eligible to draw six kg of rice per month at the rate of Rs 1-per-kg.
This is far ahead of the National Food Security Act, that came into existence in 2013 in the UPA-2 regime and which was aimed at covering two-thirds of the population of the country.
To get the ration card to avail of the subsidised food stuffs, the persons or head of the family has to apply to the local MRO who will check the facts and issue the card.
A person whose annual income is below Rs 2.5 lakh a year is eligible for the ration card and food subsidy. The corruption comes in when due to political pressure or greed, Revenue department officials liberally sanction ration cards, bypassing all the eligibility criteria.
There are also cases where genuine beneficiaries buy the rice at the subsidised price of Rs 1-a-kg from the ration shop and then sell it back to the ration shop dealer at a higher price of as much as Rs 10 a kg. The ration shop dealer diverts the rice that has come in through these illegal means to hotels, restaurants and poultry farms etc at Rs 15 to Rs 18 per kg.
This is how corruption thrives, defeating the very purpose of the subsidised scheme and committing a fraud on the taxpaying public. According to Civil Supplies commissioner C.V. Anand, it is very difficult to monitor every one of the 86 lakh ration card holders in the state. If a drive to weed out fraudulent cards is held, he says, in one or two places politicians will take up agitations against them.
The government raises taxes from the public and is responsible for the judicious expenditure of the same and is accountable when subsidies are misused in this manner.
There are ways of checking this misuse. In GHMC limit alone, when the TRS government introduced a pilot project to plug loopholes by introducing EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) system at all ration shops, there was a huge saving of Rs 300 crore in just 12 months. If this is applied to the entire state, covering all the 17,000-odd ration shops, the savings would be over Rs 1,000 crore.
Prior to the introduction of EPOS in February, 2016, the monthly allotment of rice to 1,545 ration shops in GHMC was 27,253 metric tonnes (MT) and monthly savings due to non-lifting and closing balance at the ration shop was 2398 MT (8.8 per cent). But after the introduction of EPOS, between March 2016 and April 2017, the allotment was 25, 748 MT and the saving was 5,150 MT taking it to 20 per cent. Thus Rs 300 crore was saved.
In areas outside the GHMC, the monthly allotment of rice was 1,49,761 MT and saving due to non-lifting and closing balance at ration shops was just 832 MT, which amounts to 0.55 per cent. The state Civil Supplies department expects that if EPOS is extended to each and every shop in these areas too, it would save 22,464 MT every month (15 per cent) which would save Rs 700 crore per annum.