Crackdown is looming on Miniket rice distribution, says consumer rights agency

The scrutiny of superstore businesses continues as consumer rights agency vows to unmask the “scheme of deception” involving Miniket rice

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 13 Sept 2022, 08:38 PM
Updated : 13 Sept 2022, 08:38 PM

The national consumer rights agency has called on all mills to roll back Miniket rice from the market, saying the most popular variety of fine rice is a “scheme of deception”.

AHM Shafiquzzaaman, director general of the Directorate of National Consumers' Right Protection or DNCRP, said they will soon begin raiding mills after multiple ministries pushed for the withdrawal of Miniket rice from the market.

In a discussion on Tuesday, Shafiquzzaman said officials from the Ministry of Agriculture who are linked to paddy studies stated that there is no rice variance named Miniket.

He said the food ministry instructed the DNCRP to stop the marketing of that variety of rice.

“We’ve found out that coarse rice is trimmed until fine and then polished to be made bright. These are sold as Miniket, Super Miniket, Premium or under other names.”

Shafiquzzaman said the DNCRP will now forward letters to rice mills and superstores instructing them with a deadline to halt production and marketing. “We will then carry out drives.”

Raihan Al Biruni, head of the supply chain of Meena Bazar, said that price lists delivered by the Department of Agricultural Marketing tag the product as Miniket rice as well.

“We will do as we are told. But we can’t do so if one says one thing and someone else says another. We have to follow the market. If the market knows the rice as Miniket, we’ll have to sell it under that name. So if the government notifies us that this rice has to be recognised as such, we’ll do that.”

Khandaker Kamrul Islam, PRAN RFL Group representative, said farmers in Jashore had started cultivating a type of rice called “Shatabdi or Fast Super” from India and that is now known as Miniket.

The characteristics of this rice are similar to Basmati or BR-50, BR-81 and BR-23.

Shafiquzzaman mentioned that unaccounted trimming of rice is affecting the total rice production estimates.

NO MORE MINIKET

In a separate programmme at the Secretariat, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder clarified the government’s stance against Miniket rice.

He stressed no one would buy this rice “if they had known its source.”

“We once collected some seeds of high-yielding fine rice in a mini packet and that’s where Miniket is from. We’ve clarified this many times. The consumer rights agency can operate mobile courts to abolish Miniket.”

Sadhan pointed out that a law on processing rice was forwarded to the cabinet for approval that “awaits vetting”.

The sacks or packets of all brands must mention the rice type, he said. Authorities will also specify how fine rice can be trimmed down. “The damage sustained by rice trimming affects the country’s production on the whole.”

Majumder believes the approval of the proposed law will put an end to deception with Miniket rice.

SUPERSTORES RIP OFF?

The DNCRP has set its sight on superstores that are making excessive profits on the sales of rice, sugar, egg, soap, detergent powder among other products.

The directorate claims that super shops charge customers unfair prices simply to sell them as packaged products that are also available in groceries. But representatives of the stores refuted such claims in Tuesday’s discussion.

Shafiquzzaman alleged superstores charge customers Tk 135 to Tk 140 per kg of packaged Chinigura rice while it is sold at Tk 105 in local groceries.

“How can there be such a large difference in prices? The superstores are making 29 percent profit on Chinigura rice, 26 percent on a dozen eggs and 28 percent on salt.”

Tamal Paul, ACI chief of logistics, argued that the “market determines retail prices”. The superstores pay Tk 300 to Tk 400 as rent for each square foot and another 15 percent as VAT.

“Our expenditure is 20 percent more [than local grocers]. We make 8 percent profit on unpackaged rice and 25 percent on packaged rice which is subject to agreement with producers.”

Mahadi Faisal, head of marketing at ACI, said the complaints against them were “lies” and are causing losses.

“Our customer count has already gone down. Let the superstore representatives present here clarify whether we are piling pressure on them. This needs to be resolved.”

Meena Bazar’s Raihan mentioned that producers set retail prices of goods with the consent of VAT authorities before telling super shops the buying and selling prices.

Imtiaz Firoze, head of marketing at Square Food & Beverage, said Chinigura rice price is Tk 120 per kg considering the current cost of paddy. “The maximum retail price we set includes margins for distributors and retailers.”

Shafiquzzaman dismissed the claim saying the Tk 120 rice in the open market “includes returns for all three parties”.

“Adding a packet can raise the expenses by Tk 5 but you can’t profit Tk 30 from it,” he argued, adding that the prices should not be based on the current market, but on the time of purchasing the paddy.

Biswajit Saha, a director of City Group, claimed that prices are set by the Tariff Commission. “Rather than blaming each other, let the government determine prices as it does.”

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