Bangladesh imported highest ever rice mainly from India in the outgoing financial year 2017-18 to overcome supply shortage caused by floods and inertia of the ministry of food to strengthen food buffer stock in time.
The country imported 31,65,000 tonne rice until February, as per the data of the directorate of food, showed the Bangladesh Economic Review 2018.
Directorate of Food additional director general Arifur Rahman Apu told New Age on Saturday that the 31.65 lakh tonne rice was imported by the private sector because of loss of crops caused by two rounds of flood.
In addition, the government procured about 7 lakh tone rice through direct purchase and international tenders to increase supply of rice in the local market, he said.
Earlier, the highest import of rice was 30.67 lakh tonne in 1998-99 followed by 20.47 lakh tonne in 2007-08.
Experts blamed two rounds of flood and inertia of the ministry of food to import rice to meet the supply shortage that caused price hike of the staple by 30 per cent in the local market.
Besides, the government delayed the reduction of import duty on rice which was another reason for supply shortage of the staple in the impoverished country, they said.
Bangladesh Bank officials said that 80 per cent of the rice imported in the outgoing financial year was from India.
The value of letters of credit for the import of rice between July 2017 and January 2018 stood at $1.7 billion, they said.
India’s rice exports jumped by 22 per cent in 2017 to record 12.3 million tonnes after Bangladesh ramped up purchases, according to a Reuters report released on January 10.
The boost in shipments from India, the world’s top exporter of the grain, is set to extend in 2018 as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka continue to buy aggressively amid depleting inventories in second highest exporter Thailand.
Bangladesh’s purchases lifted India’s non-basmati rice exports by 38 per cent in 2017 to 8.4 million tonnes and total exports to 12.3 million tonnes, surpassing 2014’s record of 11.5 million tonnes.
Traditionally the world’s fourth-biggest rice producer Bangladesh emerged as a major importer of the grain in 2017 after floods damaged crops and pushed domestic prices to record highs.
On June 5, Bangladesh commerce minister Tofail Ahmed told reporters that the government decided to reinstate 28 per cent duty on rice import to protect the interests of rice growers as the country witnessed a bumper yield of aman and boro, the two major crops of the country.
The import duty on rice was reduced to 2 per cent to meet the shortfall of the crops as flash floods damaged production of boro rice in haor areas, he said.
Finance minister AMA Muhith also proposed the reinstatement of the duty in the budget proposals place in parliament on June 7.
A report by the United States Department of Agriculture in April projected Bangladesh’s total rice production increase to 3.47 crore tonnes in 2018-19 from 3.26 crore tones in 2017-18.
The report largely attributed a higher boro production for this year-on-year output surge.
In 2018-19, which begins with the harvesting of boro, the production of rice is forecast to exceed the government’s target, stated the report, as farmers have increased cultivation area with an expectation of good prices, and to recoup the boro and aman production losses from the previous year.