The government on Wednesday decided to lower the tender submission period to 10 days from 42 days for an emergency import of 5.5 lakh tonnes of rice amid a price hike of the staple on the local market and the depleted public food stock, officials said.
The cabinet committee on economic affairs in a meeting on the day approved a proposal of the Directorate General of Food for lowering the tender submission period.
The government is in need to bolster its depleted food buffer stock, now staying at one fifth of the requirement of 24.55 lakh tonnes.
On February 17, the directorate apprised the cabinet committee that the national food buffer stock was at 5.19 lakh tonnes against the demand of 24.55 lakh tonnes, requiring the collection of 14 lakh tonnes of more rice and wheat in the remaining months in the current financial year ending in June.
After approving the proposal to reduce tender submission period, finance minister AMH Mustafa Kamal, who presided over the meeting, told reporters virtually that floods and rains prevented the country to attain its target for rice harvest in 2020.
He said that the country could have maintained its food production sufficiency had the cyclone Aphan and prolonged floods not damaged crops.
Mustafa said that the committee asked the directorate under the ministry of food to import rice carefully so that the local market faced no adverse impact.
According to market operators, rice prices increased by Tk 6-10 a kilogram in December 2020, continuing the upward trend since July 2020, despite a good harvest of Aman.
Rice prices have increased by Tk 2 to Tk 3 a kg for the past 15 days, they said.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh president Ghulam Rahman blamed government statistics for the failure to maintain the food buffer stock properly.
He said that there might have flaws in the data of the Bureau of Statistics, under the planning commission, on rice production and demand.
That is why many plans of the government have misfired while a section of traders are cashing in on the situation, he noted.
Most people are facing problems because of soaring prices of rice amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The medium-quality variety of rice sold for Tk 52-58 a kg on Wednesday in the city.
The standard variety of Miniket rice sold for Tk 62-65 a kg and the fine variety sold for Tk 67-70 a kg.
Najirshail rice sold for Tk 70-72 a kg.
According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, prices of rice have increased by 4.1 per cent for the last one month and the increase has been up to 30.14 per cent for the last 12 months on the local market.
Meanwhile, the food ministry asked the National Board of Revenue in the past week to lower the import duty of rice to 15 per cent from 25 per cent as the rice import by the private sector is not encouraging because of a price hike on the international market.
Available data showed that only 1.52 lakh tonnes of rice have been imported recently against the import approval for 6.16 lakh tonnes.
According to a report ran by Reuters on February 11, rice export prices in India, the top exporter of the staple, remained anchored near a three-year high as other Asian and African buyers continued purchases.
India’s 5 per cent broken parboiled variety RI-INBKN5-P1 was quoted at $402-$408 a tonne, which was the highest since May 2018.
Another report said that Bangladesh’s rice imports could surge to 20 lakh tonnes in the financial year 2020-21 year as local prices jumped to a record high on limited supplies.
The cabinet committee on economic affairs in Wednesday’s meeting approved two more proposals.
A deal between the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority and the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority on development of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar at Mirsarai in Chattogram was approved, said Cabinet Division additional secretary Sahida Akter.
The committee approved a Chattogram Port Authority proposal for appointing operators under the pubic-private-partnership for equipping, operating and maintenance of the Patenga Container Terminal.
She said that a meeting of the cabinet committee on government purchases on the day approved a proposal of the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation under the ministry of industries for land filling under its project on establishment of a chemical industrial park in Munshiganj.
Dockyard and Engineering Works Limited of the Navy was given the contract without any tender at Tk 123.63 crore.
Another proposal of the Rural Electrification Board for the procurement of 130 kilometres of underground cable at Tk 75.63 crore from Poly Cable Industries Ltd was also approved.
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