Following the reports of a fast-depleting food stock, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs of Bangladesh has recently approved a proposal that aims to make the process of rice importation easier.
This new policy proposes to slash the bidding time from a lengthy 42 days to just 10 days, a measure that was taken due to less rice production during the year, according to Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.
Although self-sufficient in production of food, the occurrence of natural calamities, including excessive raining that eventually led to flood, had significantly hampered what was supposed to be a bountiful year for rice production. Thus, imports have become necessary.
Despite this, the minister has emphasized that rice importation would be done on a limited scale so as not to negatively impact the local market.
Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi government plans to import 6 lakh tonnes of rice, among which 3 lakh tons are to be imported on a government-to-government basis. The remaining 3 lakh tons are to be imported through international tender.
Among the 3 lakh ton imported on a government-to-government basis, 1 lakh ton of boiled rice is to be imported from India. The government is working on getting Myanmar to reach an agreement, allowing them to important 1 lakh tons of Atap rice.
The Bangladeshi government has imported an astounding 98.80 thousand rice tons until March 2.
In July of last year, the government still had around 11.88 lakh tons of rice in stock, which started falling due to the widespread distribution among other programs, despite procurement of grains being unprecedentedly slow.
Until February 28, the government had 6.44 lakh tons in food stock, 5.34 lakh tons of which were rice harvest, the rest being wheat.
Both millers and farmers held back from selling their food grains to the government offices, as rates and prices were at a high. Likewise, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic affected the drop in food stock, as evidenced by the increase in cereal distribution to affected households.
As for procurement, the Directorate General of Food missed its target of 19.5 lakh tons of Boro paddy and rice, as it was only to achieve the purchase of 9.09 lakh tons during the period of April 26 to September 15 of last year.
It is predicted that the directorate is also going to miss their Aman procurement goal, only managing to purchase 73,000 tons instead of the 8 lakh ton objective.
This failure to reach the procurement goal is said to be caused by production costs being higher at the farm level, unable to be matched by the fixed paddy and rice prices offered by the government.