After a bad crop year Bangladesh appears to bounce back with prospect of a good rice output this year.
Country's dependency on rice import is expected to drastically reduce by a fourth from a record import of the staple - 36 lakh tonnes in 2017-18 marketing year to just eight lakh MT in 2018-19 MY.
According to a just released grain report by the United States Department of Agriculture, Bangladesh's total rice production is forecast to increase to 3.47 crore tonnes in 2018-19 MY (May-April) from 3.26 crore tonnes in 2017-18 MY.
USDA largely attributed a higher Boro production for this year-on-year output surge. Last year rice production fell due to a devastating haor flashflood and rice blast attacks.
In 2018-19 MY, which begins with the harvesting of Boro, the production of rice is forecast to exceed the government's target, stated USDA report, as farmers increased cultivation area with an expectation of good prices, and to recoup the Boro and Aman production losses from the previous year.
‘Farmers have switched to Boro rice from wheat and potato cultivation as they attempt to avoid loss from wheat blast and the lower price of potato. GOB's (Government of Bangladesh) procurement price of Boro and Aman paddy (unhusked) and rice (milled) of last year offers an opportunity to get good prices for this season's Boro rice,’ said USDA.
However, USDA noted, farmers' expectation of a higher price may be dampened if production is higher as expected and imports continue to follow the pace of the last few months. ‘As a highly fluctuating husked rice price is mostly controlled by millers, past experience indicates that millers manage to keep the paddy purchase price lower through imports of more rice (husked) before the harvest season.’
USDA estimated that rice imports will fall to eight lakh tonnes in 2018-19 MY, comparing to an estimated 36 lakh MT in 2017-18 MY, due to higher domestic production backed by favorable weather conditions.
The rice import estimate is revised upward to 36 lakh MT in 2017-18 MY due to increased imports to fill the supply shortfall caused by the previous year's devastating flood and the application of a two percent import tariff.
According to the ministry of food, in the period July, 2017 to March, 2018, total rice imports are a little over 35 lakh tonnes. Of these, over 9.5 lakh tonnes has been imported by the government while the rest by the private traders. This is the highest ever rice import in Bangladesh with the previous highest recorded as 30 lakh tonnes in 1998-99 financial year.
Around 67 per cent of Bangladesh's cultivated land area is used for rice production. A study by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute reported that in the period 1990-91 to 2016-17, adoption of modern varieties increased area by 11 per cent in Boro, 246 per cent in Aus and 135 perc ent in Aman season rice.
Although government has a long term plan to reduce Boro rice area and increase Aus and Aman rice production, the yield of Boro rice is still dominant in producing 54 per cent higher yield than Aus and 40 per cent higher than Aman.
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