Wheat import drops for pandemic
Wheat import has declined by 15 per cent, or 9.91 lakh tonnes, year-on-year in fiscal 2020-21 for international price hike and a fall in local demand due to the pandemic.
Importers say bakery and restaurant sales have dropped while international market prices rose 7 per cent to 10 per cent for decreased production and stockpiling by some countries.
Some 54.43 lakh tonnes were brought over in fiscal 2020-21 whereas it was 64.34 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2019-20, according to the food ministry.
The average price of each tonne imported last fiscal year was Tk 21,112. Currently, it is Tk 22,685.
The price has gone up by Tk 1,573, or 8 per cent, per tonne, according to the National Board of Revenue (NBR).
Being an essential commodity, wheat bears no import tariff.
It arrives from 16 countries, including Russia, Canada, Ukraine, India, the US, Cyprus, Italy, Australia, Argentina, Estonia and Belgium.
Importers say last fiscal's decline was contrary to the past decade's growth in domestic wheat and wheat product purchases of 10 per cent to 15 per cent almost every year.
Several exporting countries have had reduced production, including Russia and Ukraine.
This prompted Russia, one of the top exporters, to impose an export duty of €50 per tonne since July last year, they said.
This raised international market prices by $20-30 per tonne, they added.
The country has an annual demand for around 70 to 75 lakh tonnes, 85 per cent of which is met through imports, according to data from the food ministry and the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).
Bangladesh produced about 13 lakh tonnes from 3.5 lakh hectares of land last fiscal whereas it was 10.3 lakh tonnes from 3.29 lakh hectares in fiscal 2019-20, said the BSS.
Wheat production in almost all countries worldwide has declined due to the ongoing pandemic, Abul Bashar, chairman of BSM Group, one of the country's top wheat importers, told The Daily Star.
"We imported slowly due to the price hike in international markets. Besides, suddenly our country's demand has declined due to the ongoing pandemic," he said.
"However, the demand for wheat has seen an upward trend due to changing food habits and increased demand and export of baked goods over the last decade," he added.
IndexMundi, a facts and statistics data portal, ranks Bangladesh sixth among wheat importers, 18th in consumption and 34th in production in the world.