Food grains imports touched a two-year high in fiscal 2013-14 on the back of low prices of rice and wheat.
Grains imports accelerated 62 percent year-on-year to 30.64 lakh tonnes, according to data from the food ministry. Bangladesh imported 3.74 lakh tonnes of rice last fiscal year—13 times higher than a year ago. Wheat imports rose 44 percent year-on-year to 26.89 lakh tonnes.
Cereal imports by the government doubled to 9.27 tonnes in the same period, accounting for 30 percent of total overseas purchases. The government imports are mainly used for open markets sales to the low-income groups.
The country requires nearly 40 lakh tonnes of wheat to meet its annual demand, which is growing by the year for the rise in population, health consciousness and industrial use. Of the amount, 12 lakh tonnes of wheat are grown locally and the rest is imported.
Abul Bashar Chowdhury, chairman of BSM Group, a Chittagong-based importer, said the relatively lower price of wheat flour than rice in the domestic market encouraged importers.
Over the past one year, prices of wheat flour hovered below the prices of coarse rice, enabling private sector to register better demands. The low price of the grain in international market was another reason.
Chowdhury expects the low wheat prices to persist in the global market during the course of the fiscal year and the imports to rise by 5-10 percent.
The spiral in imports though will depend on domestic rice production and the overall political atmosphere, he added. If rice production does not increase and the political situation remains stable, wheat imports will rise. Meanwhile, public sector imports also surged last year to 9.27 lakh tonnes, an increase of 97 percent year-on-year. Wheat accounted for 99 percent of it, according to official data.
For the current fiscal year, the government plans to buy 12.10 lakh tonnes of cereal including 9 lakh tonnes of wheat and 2 lakh tonnes of rice.