Inclement weather, not Covid, to cut rice production
Rice production is likely to decline by 5,50,000 tonnes in the May-April period of 2020-21 from a year ago as a result of cyclones, heavy rains and repeated floods, said a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) statement released on Thursday.
Production of the staple may fall one per cent year-on-year to 3.53 crore tonnes in the market year (MY) of 2020-21 from 3.58 crore tonnes a year ago, said the USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) in its Grain and Feed Update on Bangladesh.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has not had a significant impact on Bangladesh's MY2020-21 grain production."
"However, severe weather in Bangladesh, which started in May and ended in August, has impacted Bangladesh's rice production and moderately impacted Bangladesh's corn production," said the report.
The forecast comes at a time when prices of rice are on the upward amidst speculations of reduced crop harvests for repeated floods and slow release of grain by large farmers and traders.
Grown in the monsoon, aman rice accounted for 39 per cent of the grain output in the last marketing year, according to the USDA report.
Because of disruptions and delayed planting as a result of floods, the overall yield of aman rice might decline by 5 per cent from last year's total of 1.40 crore tonnes.
In addition, cyclone Amphan, which hit the country in May, had a "direct impact" on boro rice, the biggest crop, according to the agency.
It said the production of boro, harvested by farmers in the April-May period, dropped this year to 1.93 crore tonnes.
"Since May, Bangladesh's grain farmers have had to overcome a cyclone, heavy monsoon rains, and consistent inflow of floodwaters from India," said the report.
Floods started with heavy rainfall on June 17 and did not recede until the end of August. It caused Bangladesh's 200-plus rivers to overflow, impacting over 40 per cent of Bangladesh's landmass, added the report.
The USDA estimated total acreage of aman to be 58 lakh hectares, slightly down from that the previous year. Since August, flooding has receded and the impact on the aman rice season is expected to be mild, it said.
Citing the Ministry of Agriculture, the report said aman crop on 100,000 hectares of land would be affected this season.
However, Bangladesh's rice consumption and imports are expected to increase this year, according to the report.
The USDA said rice import may increase to 5,00,000 tonnes in the MY 2020-21 as the government faces difficulty in procuring rice from the domestic markets.
The average retail price of coarse rice was Tk 45 per kilogramme in October this year, which was 32 per cent higher than that last year.
"Retail prices of milled rice are increasing irrespective of the category. Analysts attribute the increase in domestic prices to market speculation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic," said the USDA.
The report noted falling stocks of food grains in government warehouses, stating that replenishment of rice stocks through procurements was critical in stabilising the domestic market and ensure the availability of food.