Prices of different varieties of paddy increased by Tk50-70 per maund (40 kg) in Brahmanbaria's BOC Ghat, the largest wholesale paddy market in the eastern part of the country, over the last two months due to a shortage in supply amid the ending Aman season.
Traders said the paddy market might remain volatile until the next Boro harvest starting early April.
Visiting the wholesale market the last several days, a maund of BR-49 variety paddy was found selling at Tk1,100, BR-29 at Tk1,210 and BR-28 at Tk1,330.
The prices were Tk20-40 lower in late December and Tk50-70 in late November last year.
Currently, 15-20 thousand maunds of paddy are being sold at the market every day, which usually reach up to 1.5 lakh maunds in the peak days of harvesting time.
Middlemen collecting paddies from farmers in nearby districts – Kishoreganj, Mymensingh, Netrokona, Sunamganj, Habiganj – and hoar areas sell the paddies at the BOC Ghat. The market on the bank of Meghna River is popular for having a good transportation system. Around 300 rice mills grew up centring the Ghat.
"The paddy prices have been on the rise since mid-December last year. The trend continued in the whole of January also," Chan Mia, a paddy buyer of a rice mill there, said.
He hinted that the prices might increase further.
Echoing Chan Mia, several others also agreed that the volatile paddy market had no sign of immediate fall. At least, the trend would continue until the next harvest, they believed.
Meanwhile, keeping pace with the soaring paddy market, the millers also raised rice prices by TK1-2 per kg over the last month. However, they said they would incur a loss supplying rice to the government at the previously-set price.
"Paddy prices have been on the rise. So, rice prices also increased, but they [rice prices] are not proportionate to the paddy prices," said Helal Shikder, general-secretary of Ashuganj Rice Mills Association.
"Such hikes in paddy prices will lead us to a loss as many of us have agreements with the food directorate, under which we have to supply 14,240 tonnes of rice at Tk40 per kg within February," he told The Business Standard.
Md Hasan Imran, another rice miller, estimated that they might incur a Tk1 loss for supplying each kg of rice to the government.
When contacted, Controller of Food for Brahmanbaria Sadar upazila Kawser Sajib told TBS that the millers were supposed to supply rice at the fixed price, regardless of their profits or losses, under the agreement.
Like previous years, the government dealt with 174 rice mills in the Brahmanbaria district to procure 14,240 tonnes of rice at Tk40 per kg between November 2021 to February 2022 and set a target of buying 2,734 tonnes of paddy at Tk27 per kg from farmers directly.
"We have already collected 72% of the rice in our procurement target, while it is 60% for paddy," the official, who is supervising the paddy and rice procurement in the district, said.
The paddy collection was lower as farmers there did not have enough paddy now, he added.
Sajib is hopeful that they will be able to collect 100% of the rice target and 80% of the paddy target.