Bangladesh to buy rice from India

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - Despite deals with several rice exporting countries including India, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, Bangladesh is still battling to increase its reserve, with rice import set to hit its highest level in a decade.

The government in a desperate move to boost stock is going to import another 150,000 tonnes of rice from India after an initiative to bring in the staple from Cambodia has recently failed.

The cabinet committee on purchase yesterday approved a proposal to import the rice from India through state-to-state arrangement at $440 per tonne.

Earlier in October, the same committee approved a proposal to import 100,000 tonnes of rice from India at $455 per tonne.

This time the government is going to get at $15 less per tonne. The rice will arrive in two months from opening of Letter of Credit (LC).

The cabinet committee has so far approved proposals to import about 1.55 million tonnes of rice through state-to-state and open tender in last six months. The volume is 50,000 tonnes more than the government's rice import target in current fiscal year.

Food ministry officials said the committee in August approved a proposal to import 250,000 tonnes of rice from Cambodia through state-to-state arrangement, but Bangladesh later cancelled the deal due to shipment delay.

The officials added the government has decided to import more rice from India to make a recovery.

The government is desperately trying to replenish its depleted stock through import after production was hit by flash floods and fungal attacks. It has taken initiatives to import rice in various ways including even import of 200,000 tonnes through local traders.

Despite deals with several rice exporting countries including India, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, Bangladesh is still battling to increase its reserve, with rice import set to hit its highest level in a decade.

The import of rice at both government and private levels has been stepped up lately. From July 1 to November 21, 18.18 lakh tonnes of rice was imported. Of the quantity, 412,000 tonnes was brought in by the government.

Last fiscal year, the government did not have to import any rice, but 1.3 million tonnes of the staple came through the private sector.

The government has also decided to import 2 million tonnes of food grains -- 1.5 million tonnes of rice and 500,000 tonnes of wheat -- this fiscal year. This is 1.1 million tonnes more than the government's earlier projected food import target.

Through the imports, the government's food reserve, which had fallen below 300,000 tonnes, has started to gradually increase.

The food reserve on November 21 was 615,000 tonnes, of which rice was 397,000 tonnes. On the same day last year the reserve was 794,000 tonnes with the quantity of rice 504,000 tonnes.

The cabinet committee on purchase yesterday also approved a proposal to import 50,000 tonnes of wheat at $245.35 per tonne to be supplied by Korea-based M/s Singsong Food Corporation.

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