In a bid to boost food grain reserve, the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase yesterday approved a proposal for procuring 2.5 lakh tonnes of rice.
The price of rice is soaring in both retail and wholesale markets at a time when the government's rice reserve has gone down to 5.32 lakh tonnes as of January 4.
According to the food ministry, the total reserve of food grain was 7.27 lakh tonnes -- 5.32 lakh tonnes of rice and 1.95 lakh tonnes of wheat -- as of January 4, down from 13.83 lakh tonnes at the same time last year.
The permission was granted by the government as part of a plan to import a total of 10 lakh tonnes of rice from different countries.
In December 2020, the purchase committee had given the Directorate of Food the nod to import 1 lakh tonnes of rice.
The food ministry has also so far permitted 29 private firms to import 3.3 lakh tonnes of rice at a reduced tariff.
The meeting of the purchase committee yesterday gave the nod to import of 1 lakh tonnes of non-Basmati parboiled rice and 50,000 tonnes of sun-dried rice from National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd under a government-to-government agreement.
The price of the parboiled rice is set at $407 per tonne, while the price of the sun-dried rice per tonne is $417.
The purchase committee also gave approval to the Directorate of Food to purchase 50,000 tonnes of non-Basmati parboiled rice from ETC Agro Processing (India) Pvt Ltd of India at a price of $405.6 per tonne.
The directorate has also been permitted to import another 50,000 tonnes of sun-dried rice from Agrocorp International Pte Ltd of Singapore at a price of $408.28 per tonne.
Prices of coarse rice, mainly consumed by low-income groups, have soared the most.
The retail price of the coarse grain was Tk 45-50 a kilogramme yesterday, up 46 percent from a year ago, data from the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) showed.
The price of fine and medium rice also saw a rise between 10 and 20 percent compared to the price on January 6 last year, according to the TCB.
Earlier, Food Secretary Nazmanara Khanum told The Daily Star that the country does not have much shortage of rice against demand and the government is planning for food intervention keeping the second wave of Covid-19 in mind.
On December 28, the food ministry wrote to the commerce ministry and the National Board of Revenue to take steps to cut the import tariff on rice to 25 percent from 62.5 percent to facilitate the import.
The NBR is reviewing the proposal and will issue a circular in this regard soon, food ministry sources said.