Govt approves import of another 3.5 lakh tonnes of rice
As a part of its aggressive push to increase the country's food stock, the government yesterday approved three proposals to import a total of 3.5 lakh tonnes of rice from India, Thailand and Vietnam under state-to-state arrangements.
The approval came at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.
Of the total quantity, 1.50 lakh tonnes would be imported from India, 1.50 lakh tonnes from Thailand and another 50,000 tonnes from Vietnam.
According to the food ministry, Bangladesh's grain stocks were of just 6.26 lakh tonnes as of March 8. Of the amount, 5.28 lakh tonnes was rice and the rest wheat.
The food ministry considers stocks of around 10 lakh tonnes of rice as a safe margin.
To boost the stock, the government has so far taken steps to import a total of 13 lakh tonnes of rice, including the 3.5 lakh tonnes decided upon yesterday.
The committee approved the proposal from the food department to import 1.50 lakh tonnes of non-basmati boiled rice from Indian firm Punjab State Civil Service Corporation.
It also approved a proposal to import 1.50 lakh tonnes of non-basmati boiled rice from Thai state-owned Sakonnakhon National Farmers Council.
The third proposal, coming from the same department, was to import 50,000 tonnes of atap or non-boiled rice from the Southern Food Corporation of Vietnam.
Following the meeting, Finance Minister Kamal told reporters through a virtual press briefing that since tenders were a time-consuming process, the rice would be procured through government-level negotiations.
"The tender procedure is slow and during the processing prices fluctuate. We also observed that the price is currently on an upward trend in global markets," he said.
Asked about the unit price of the rice to be imported, Kamal said it was yet to be fixed as the economic affairs committee only just allowed the ministry to negotiate with those three countries.
The prices would be collected with the help of the respective ambassadors and then, the ministry officials will negotiate the price either virtually or on a one-on-one basis.
"We can talk about the prices only after the proposed prices are placed to the purchase committee," he added.
Last month, separate agreements were signed to import 4 lakh tonnes of rice, with 3 lakh tonnes to be sourced through international tenders while the rest would be purchased from India under a government-to-government arrangement.
Earlier last week the government took the initiative to import 5.5 lakh tonnes of rice through international open tenders.
To expedite the import process, the economic affairs committee approved a proposal on March 3 to shorten the bidding process from 42 days to 10 days.
Chances remain that these moves may not be successful, so the government is trying to make the imports through both international tenders and under state-to-state basis.
"We are trying to procure rice from different sources since if one attempt fails, we may face problem. That is why we are looking for different sources to minimise the risk factors," Kamal said.
A food ministry official said all of their steps may not turn fruitful, which was why they were going for both international open tenders as well as government-to-government arrangements.
So far the government has been able to import 1.18 lakh tonnes of rice as of March 8, according to the food ministry.