Govt to get into import gear
In a bid to boost the food stocks and make the local commodity market stable, the government yesterday disclosed its mega food import strategies.
According to its decision, the government will import nine lakh tonnes of additional rice to increase the stock to 12 lakh tonnes. The authorities previously targeted importing three lakh tonnes of rice for 2010-11 fiscal year.
Like the staple food, the government will import an additional 2.50 lakh tonnes of wheat from its previous target of 7.50 lakh tonnes for the current fiscal year.
Such quick move is necessary because the prices of basic commodities have soared recently and Bangladesh wants to build her stock to tackle any foreseeable crisis, observed ministers.
It will import two lakh tonnes of sugar through the state-owned Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), Commerce Minister Faruk Khan told the journalists at a press briefing at his secretariat office after a coordination meeting.
The commerce minister held the emergency coordination meeting on ‘purchasing food grains and basic commodities from the international market’ with Food and Disaster Management Minister Abdur Razzaque.
Two lakh tonnes of crude soybean and palm oil and 20,000 tonnes of grams (chick peas) will also be procured from the international market, added Faruk.
“Commerce ministry has asked for Tk 1000 crore from the government to strengthen the TCB, so that it can import the essentials to tackle the situation,” stated the minister.
The TCB will also import 10,000 tonnes of lentil to add to a stock of 25,000 tonnes, said Faruk adding, these are the government’s efforts beside the private sector’s continued imports.
“We are very worried with the prices and stocks of food items in the international market. This is why we are importing the food items to boost the stock and bring price stability in the local market,” mentioned the minister.
Abdur Razzaque said prices of rice in the local market have gone higher even in the full season of harvest because the mill owners stockpiled it for selling at higher prices in near future.
“I think the prices of rice and wheat are comparatively higher. We are making efforts considering the purchasing capacity of poor people,” said the minister.
“We are not purchasing from the internal market because it is unable to supply such a huge quantity of food grains.”
At present there is a stock of 8.22 lakh tonnes of rice and wheat in the government’s warehouses, he added.
Six lakh tonnes of rice and five lakh tonnes of wheat will arrive by next April because the letters of credit (LCs) have already been opened to this end, mentioned Razzaque.
“On Sunday, we have signed agreement with the Vietnamese government to import 2.50 lakh tonnes of rice. I hope the entire quantity will arrive at the end of February.”
The country will require 11,36,000 tonnes in rice and wheat by next April, he said adding, since the boro paddy will come by May, 7,86,000 tonnes of food grains will remain surplus in the government warehouses.
Replying to queries, Razzaque said a total of 3,80,000 tonnes of rice has already been imported and LCs for six lakh tonnes more have been opened up.
“We will import the remaining 2.50 lakh tonnes of rice mainly from Thailand and Pakistan.”
“We are in talks for importing three lakh tonnes of rice from India. If India does not agree we will not face problem as we have options to import the quantity from Thailand and Pakistan,” he said.