Bangladesh yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with Thailand to facilitate up to 10 lakh tonnes of rice import from the Southeast Asian country each year till 2021.
Food Minister Qamrul Islam and Thai Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn inked the MoU at a city hotel pending a price negotiation.
The rice price will be fixed after negotiations between the two countries, considering the international market price, the minister said in reply to journalists' queries.
The deal signing was held just little two weeks after a Thai official delegation left Dhaka with the latter's disagreeing to Thai rice price offer.
During the Thai team's Dhaka visit on July 23-24, they asked for $500 for per tonne of rice, but Dhaka did not agree to that high price as Bangladesh is getting rice at much cheaper than that rate from other international sources.
Earlier, an Indian delegation also demanded high prices that Bangladesh did not agree as well. But before that, Bangladesh signed a deal with Vietnam for rice import at $470 per tonne, and nearly one lakh tonnes of Vietnamese rice have already reached Chittagong port.
Qamrul told journalists yesterday that though the country attained self-sufficiency in rice production, a loss of the crop in the haor region due to flashfloods necessitated import from different countries.
“We have already imported rice from Vietnam, and hopefully, we will be able to import the staple from Thailand as per our requirements,” said the food minister.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, who was present during the MoU signing, said rice was being imported due to its domestic production shortfall. He said under the MoU, the government would import Thai rice upon fixing price through negotiations.
Thai Commerce Minister Tantraporn said, “This is a very auspicious moment that we have signed this MoU for the rice trade between Bangladesh and Thailand. This MoU is an intention of Bangladesh to import rice from Thailand, the quantity not exceeding one million metric tonne per year.”
Vietnam and Thailand apart, the government in last two months also inked an MoU with Cambodia for importing rice.
Besides, over the past two months, the Directorate General of Food floated seven international tenders, seeking to import an additional 3.5 lakh tonnes of rice.
The moves come long after the crop loss in the March flashflood, which ravaged the backswamps in the country's northeastern region where 90 percent of standing Boro crops, totalling over 10 lakh tonnes, was damaged. Fungal attacks in at least 19 districts also caused crop loss in the last Boro season.
A recent US Department of Agriculture projection, however, put the figure at 15 lakh tonnes in the current fiscal.
The food ministry's move also comes at a time when end-season rice stock in public granaries dropped to a six-year low and market price of coarse rice shot up to as high as Tk 48 a kg in June-July. This is a 47 percent rise from the price during the same period last year.
Despite the government's move and increased import by the private sector, a Trading Corporation of Bangladesh's market monitoring report shows that the price of coarse rice has remained static at Tk 45 a kg for over two weeks.