Bangladesh garment makers to sell cheap rice to workers

DHAKA, May 3, 2008 (AFP) – Bangladesh garment manufacturers on Saturday said they would distribute subsidised rice to thousands of some of the world’s lowest-paid workers to help them cope with sky-rocketing food prices. The announcement came after around 20,000 textile workers rioted in one of the main garment-making areas near the capital Dhaka last month, demanding relief from soaring rice prices and better pay.

Under the scheme, a worker will get four kilogrammes (8.8 pounds) of rice a week from subsidised outlets in the nation’s main garment hubs, president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association Fazlul Haq said.

“We know how much they have been affected by soaring rice. It’s a huge crisis. Our outlets will sell rice at least 30 percent less than the market price,” Haq told AFP.

“The cheap food is part of our initiative to help them in this time of need,” he said.

Bangladesh’s garment industry is crucial for the economy as the leading export earner and factory owners have said they fear labour unrest over food costs could hit production.

The subsidised food scheme, slated to start Monday, would be targeted at the garment workers who are being paid the country’s minimum