The government has decided to transfer Tk369 cr from the local rice and wheat procurement programme aiming to meet the import demand, officials said.
The import is planned from Vietnam and other rice producing countries, the officials said, adding, private importers will be engaged in the process.
The development came as the Food Ministry failed to procure rice from farmers across the country due to high prices of their produce.
The ministries of finance and food, after a long negotiation, came up with the move to transfer funds from procurement allocation to import rice, as the allocation to procure wheat, rice and paddy was not utilised due to high price charged by farmers and rice millers.
The situation was created as the government had set Tk37.40 for per kilogram rice, while each per kg coarse rice is selling between Tk 45 and Tk50 per kilogram, a Finance Ministry official said.
Considering the situation, the government has no other choice, but to stop procuring rice and mulling of rice import, instead, he said.
A latest Food Ministry data shows that around 2.17 lakh tonnes of rice were in stock at public warehouses, the figure dropped to a six-year low of 1.98 lakh tonnes on June 7.
Despite the low rice stock Food Minister Qamrul Islam said: “Our stock situation is now good. Then again, the prices of rice have increased in parts of the country.”
He said the government has planned to stock 10 lakh tonnes of rice through import.
An the international media data says Vietnamese rice prices, averaging $367.50 per tonne, are at an 11-month high.
The prices kept soaring every week with many fearing that it would not be wise for Bangladesh to import rice from the country.
In the revised budget, only Tk1472.67 cr was left after procuring rice, wheat and paddy of Tk4,155 cr.
Of the remaining amount, the government has decided to transfer Tk369 cr for importing rice from Vietnam and procuring from other importers.
The Food Ministry says 13,209 tonnes of rice were procured until June 7, while the government and private sector imported 4,623 tonnes of rice. The government imported just 417 tonnes.
Bangladesh produces around 34 million tonnes of rice annually, which it uses to feed its population.
Food Ministry at a recent meeting of cabinet committee on public purchase proposed import of 1 lakh tonne rice by M/S Agrocorp International Pte Ltd and M/S Sukhbir Agro Energy Ltd at an estimated cost of Tk 345 cr.
Food Ministry at recent meeting of cabinet committee on public purchase proposed import of 1 lakh tonne rice by M/S Agrocorp International Pte Ltd and M/S Sukhbir Agro Energy Ltd at an estimated cost of Tk 345 cr .
When contacted, Nirod Chandra Shah, owner of Naogoan Rice Mill, attributed the failure of the government's rice procurement programme to the lower prices it had set.
“Why would rice mill owners sell rice incurring Tk8 loss for each kg?” he said.
“We demand that 29% import duties for rice import be withdrawn. If so, it would boost availability of rice in local market,” he added.