Wheat imports poised to rise
Bangladesh's wheat imports may go up to 57 lakh tonnes in 2016-17 due to record low prices in the international market and comparatively high prices in the local market, said the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently.
The country imported 43.66 lakh tonnes of wheat in fiscal 2015-16, according to data from the Food Planning and Monitoring Unit of the food ministry.
The forecast came after import of the grain rose 45 percent year-on-year to 44.75 lakh tonnes in July-March of fiscal 2016-17. The private sector accounted for 94 percent of the total wheat imports during the period, the ministry's data showed.
The USDA said Bangladesh meets 75 percent of its wheat consumption needs through imports, sourcing lower quality wheat from Russia and Ukraine, and higher quality wheat from Canada, Australia and the US.
Citing trade sources, it said about 40 percent of wheat imported was sourced from Russia and 30 percent from Ukraine during 2016-17.
“Bangladesh is known as a price sensitive wheat market and typically imports low-cost wheat. The small premium Bangladesh importers are willing to pay for better wheat is usually less than the additional cost of freight from distant origins. As a result, premium wheat from the United States is generally uncompetitive,” said the USDA.
For fiscal 2017-18, import is likely to rise to 59 lakh tonnes, it said.
The import forecast is higher than that in the previous year due to changing food consumption habits, fast urbanisation, and expected lower prices in international markets, said the US agency in a report released on April 18.
The USDA, however, cut its estimate on wheat production to 12.75 lakh tonnes for fiscal 2016-17 because of a decline in plantation last winter.
“Fear of wheat blast dissuaded some farmers from planting wheat,” it said. The agency expected that cultivation area may rise to 4.20 lakh hectares and thus, production to 13 lakh tonnes in the coming cultivation season. Wheat accounts for about 12 percent of total cereal consumption and is the second most important food staple in Bangladesh after rice.
Wheat production was 13.48 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2015-16, posting marginal gain, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. The cereal import has been rising fast since fiscal 2012-13 spurred by increased consumption. The country imported 37.84 lakh tonnes of wheat in fiscal 2014-15, according to government data.