Bangladesh is now trying to buy rice from Thailand and India under the government-to-government arrangement, weeks after striking a G2G deal to import the staple from Vietnam.
The government is also opening two more international bids this week, seeking to import 50,000 tonnes of rice and equal amount of wheat. This would be the first public sector wheat import in the last eight months.
The moves come amid high rice prices in the domestic market and further depletion of the public food reserve. The government had already a low food reserve -- below five lakh tonnes -- in June. Now, the volume has come down to 3.4 lakh tonnes, of which rice stock is only 1.54 lakh tonnes.
Apart from the regular food aid programmes, rice and wheat stored in the public granaries are also being given to flood and landslide victims as assistance.
Meanwhile, the price of per kg of coarse rice has dropped by Tk 2 from Tk 48 last week. Rice prices had posted a 47 percent increase comparing the prices in June last year.
Market sources said the prices would go down further as private traders were bringing in the staple from India after the import duty was lowered to 10 percent from 28 percent. The government is also expecting the first consignment of rice from Vietnam to reach the Chittagong port by the end of this week.
Following this year's crop loss owing to Haor flashfloods and fungal attacks (rice blast), the government struck three deals in May and June for importing 3.5 lakh tonnes of rice -- 1 lakh tonnes from two Dubai and Singapore-based suppliers and 2.5 lakh more from Vietnam under the G2G.
None of the import consignments, however, has reached the country yet.
The government is now seeking to import more rice from Thailand and India to ensure the staple's availability in the market as the flood situation is worsening and the prospect of the upcoming rice season seems uncertain.
A two-member official team comprising one official each from the food ministry and food directorate left for Bangkok on Wednesday to look into the possibility of purchasing rice from Thailand under the G2G arrangement.
“We're also expecting a team from India to visit Bangladesh soon. We'll try to buy rice from India as well," Food Minister Qamrul Islam told The Daily Star yesterday.
He, however, insisted that he would not say at this stage how much rice the government was intending to buy from the two countries.
In addition to floating international tenders seeking to buy 1.5 lakh tonnes of parboiled (Shiddo) and white (Atap) rice, the food department would also open bids for importing 50,000 tonnes of more parboiled rice this week.
Tender is also being floated to buy 50,000 tonnes of wheat from the international market to replenish the depleting food reserve. This was the first public sector wheat tender since October last year. In 2016-17, Bangladesh imported over 58 lakh tonnes of wheat. Over 80 percent of that wheat was brought in by private importers.
Early flashfloods this season completely washed away 10 lakh tonnes of rice in the northeastern areas while fungal attack blast also caused losses of Boro crops in 19 districts, said the agricultural extension department.
A prolonged flood in the northeast and northwestern regions is also being feared to have some bearings on the productions of this year's two remaining rice crops -- Aus and Aman.