The government has sought cooperation from apparel factory owners to provide ration for readymade garment (RMG) workers throughout the year.
"We are ready to give garment workers rice at a subsidised rate throughout the year. It will require about 50,000 tonnes of rice a month and we shall have no problem in providing that," Food and Disaster Management Minister Abdur Razzaque told reporters after a meeting with garment factory owners.
The ministry decided to launch the two-month rationing programme for garment workers from first week of next month, instead of May 1.
The meeting at the ministry's conference room discussed the modus operandi of giving ration to garment workers but failed to decide on who would operate the programme.
Another meeting will be convened within a week to settle the issue, Razzaque said.
The ministry wants the factory owners to take the distribution job through which over 30 lakh garment workers in Dhaka, Chittagong, Narayanganj and Gazipur will get 20 kgs of rice each month in two phases.
Meeting sources said the representatives from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) are in favour of conducting the programme jointly with the ministry.
"We discussed a number of options. Finally we requested the factory owners to take the responsibility. We told them that the ministry will closely monitor the operation to make it a success," Razzaque said.
BGMEA President Abdus Salam Murshedy, who led a seven-member delegation at the meeting, said they would sit again next week to work out a modus operandi for the programme as the ministry is willing to launch it immediately.
Appreciating the initiative at a time when the global financial meltdown is affecting Bangladesh, he said they need to inform all factory owners about the programme before a distribution mechanism is put in place.
The food and disaster management minister said they have over 12 lakh tonnes of rice in stock.
He said they would provide rice at Tk 16.50 a kg which will be sold at Tk 18 including operational cost of Tk 1.50.
Asked about checking malpractices in the operation of the programme, he said the ministry along with factory owners would strictly monitor it. Besides, the ministry will also check the list of garment workers to be selected by the owners.
He also gave assurance that quality rice will be distributed among garment workers.
Food Secretary Md Moklesur Rahman, Additional Secretary Amjad Hossain Khan and acting BKMEA President Abdur Rashed, among others, were present.