Food ration for RMG workers uncertain: Lower market price of rice puts govt in dilemma


The food rationing programme for garment industry workers, which was scheduled to start in the first week of April, has become uncertain because of low market prices of rice, resulting in poor response to the government open market sales (OMS) of food.

The government is also in a dilemma over fixing the government purchase price of boro rice and its purchase target, as consumers are not buying the rice from OMS outlets, resulting in a huge stockpile of rice and wheat in government silos.

“We can’t start the rationing programme as the garment workers are showing little interest in it due to low prices of rice on local markets,” Food and Disaster Management Minister Abdur Razzaque told reporters in his secretariat.

Earlier, the government, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) decided to launch the rationing programme for garment workers in the first week of April, fearing that the existing market price of the staple would be too high for the workers by the beginning of April. But in reality the market price of rice actually dipped since the decision had been taken.

Razzaque said they are ‘reviewing the situation and will make some new decisions’ regarding launching of the rationing and boro purchase.

He said prices of rice cannot be reduced more as it will have an adverse impact on local markets and farmers.

“We can’t put the farmers in trouble by further reducing the price since the production cost is high,” the food minister said.

He also said widespread mismanagement and irregularities were reported in the 100-day job creation programme launched by the immediate-past caretaker government.

“Some government officials were also involved in the irregularities. An investigation has been ordered and all violators will be brought to justice,” the minister said.

Earlier the ministry cancelled the programme and decided to initiate a similar social safety net programme in the next fiscal to generate jobs in rural areas.

Razzaque added that Tk 900 crore from a total of Tk 2,000 crore allotted for the 100-day job creation programme was already spent in the very first year.

“We plan to implement a new project under the food security programme next year taking Tk 800 crore from the remainder of the fund,” he said.

 

The World Bank will provide financial and technical assistance to the new project, added the minister.

The food minister also apologised for the anomalies in the distribution of vulnerable group feeding (VGF) cards, which had been reported in the media.

“Some irregularities might have taken place because of political party affiliations of some individuals involved in card distribution,” Abdur Razzak said.

He however dismissed the allegation that rotten rice was being distributed through the VGF programme.

Source: The Daily Star, 08 April 2009

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