Bangladesh will have more than 55 lakh tonnes of surplus rice after meeting the domestic demand at the end of November, according to a study by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) unveiled yesterday.
The state agency sees no shortage of rice in the near future as aus harvest is ongoing and aman will hit the market in November-December. As the production of rice has increased, the country had two crore tonnes of rice in stock until June, the BRRI said.
The findings were shared by BRRI Director General Md Shahjahan Kabir at a webinar on whether Bangladesh was going to face any rice shortage in the short run amid the pandemic.
The BRRI said farmers have reaped benefits of the increased prices of paddy.
A tendency is growing among farmers to hoard paddy this year because of the fear of food shortages and expectations of higher prices in the days ahead, Kabir said.
The BRRI expects that aus rice production would not be less than 30 lakh tonnes though floods have damaged crops on 30,000 hectares.
The findings come at the time when the food ministry is preparing to import the staple to keep the public stock intact.
The present stock of 12.5 lakh tonnes of rice and wheat is set to exhaust by December owing to the government's food distribution and other social safety net programmes.
The food ministry is mulling over importing the grain amid sluggish progress in the procurement of rice and paddy due to a lack of interest among millers and farmers to supply the cereal to public warehouses.
Until now, the government's food office could meet 20 per cent of its paddy procurement target of eight lakh tonnes and 45 per cent of its rice procurement target of 11.5 lakh tonnes. And by the looks of things, it is assumed that the target of paddy procurement is unlikely to be achieved within the deadline of 31 August.
So, there will be a shortage of rice that is expected to be met through paddy procurement, said Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder at the event.
"We have taken preparations to import to maintain an adequate stock such that the market remains stable," he said, adding that businesses might hike the prices of the grain if public food stock depletes. Some traders are waiting in the wings to increase the prices but the government will not let it happen.
"We have taken all the preparations to stay clear of a crisis like the acute shortage of onion that the nation endured last year," he added.
Prolonged floods damaged transplanted aman seedlings along with a portion of standing aus crop, said Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque.
Uncertainty about the amount of aus production, fear centring a low yield of aman and a spike in prices have created concerns among people, the minister said.
"We will import rice in a small quantity if aman cultivation suffers," he said, adding that the agriculture ministry took measures to increase the production of aman and support flood-affected farmers so that they can grow rice and other crops.
Razzaque said an adequate stock of food grains should be maintained to keep the market stable and ensure food security during the times of pandemic.
"We will need to distribute more rice under the social safety net schemes if the coronavirus situation lingers," he said.
Shamsul Alam, member of the General Economics Division under the planning ministry, cited the incidence of rice price spiral after the harvest of boro paddy and raised questions about the accuracy of production estimates.
"We should follow market signals. We must make preparations for import if prices of rice do not decline," he added.
The food office might be able to purchase an additional five lakh tonnes of the grain in the rest of the period of the procurement programme, said Food Secretary Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum.
"The requirement of food distribution could be met until December by the present stock. We need to build up stock for the subsequent period for the sake of consumers," she added.