The first consignment of rice that the government purchased from Vietnam has arrived at the Chittagong port.
The ship carrying 20,000 tonnes of rice anchored around 9:30am Thursday at the Kutubdia outer anchorage, Controller of Movement and Storage Jahirul Islam of the Department of Food Chittagong told the Dhaka Tribune.
The department will now assess the rice for quality, he said. This will be followed by other customs formalities.
“All considered we can hopefully allow the unloading of the rice to begin by Saturday or Sunday,” he said.
He said the next to consignments will arrive on July 18 and 22.
The government has purchased 200,000 tonnes of white rice at $430 per tonne and 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice at $470 per tonne from Vietnam to maintain immediate availability of stock in the market, as well as reserves.
The country’s rice stock has hit a five year low, at 193,000 tonnes.
'Rice reserve to be 1.2m tonnes by September'
The government's rice reserve is expected to stand at 1.2 million tonnes by September, Food Minister Qamrul Islam told journalists later in the day.
“We are expecting 22,000 tonnes on July 18, 21,000 tonnes on July 24 and 24,000 tonnes more on July 30. Another 40,000 tonnes of rice will arrive by August. The rice that was bought through tender between July 15 and July 20 will also be arriving. We have invited bids for four tenders, and one is being processed,” he said.
The minister said that 16,000 dealers had been blacklisted by the government for three years for creating artificial shortage to raise the price of rice.
More rice is also expected from India, Myanmar and Thailand. The minister said: “450,000 tonnes of rice will be arriving from various sources in August. We are expecting a team of representatives from India on Sunday. The delegation from Thailand will be arriving on July 24. There will be government-to-government contracts with India and Thailand. I will also be going to Cambodia on August 1 or 2 to sign a contract for more rice.
After the import duty on rice was cut by 18%, 84,000 tonnes of rice have come from India through the private sector. Dealers that had been reluctant to sell rice to the government have begun selling us their rice now as well, Qamrul said.
“We are expecting to collect 3-4 lakh tonnes of rice from local markets as well,” he added.
When asked about the government's current stocks of grains, he said: “We have sufficient stores of food. There are no plans to distribute the rice except for emergency relief.”