Rice imports hit a four-year high as traders find foreign produce, mainly from India, cheaper.
Private traders imported 8.73 lakh tonnes of rice between July 1 and March 2, the highest since fiscal 2010-11, according to food ministry data. The government did not import any rice in the same period.
“It is because of the price difference between the Indian and Bangladeshi rice. Indian produce is cheaper than ours,” said Chitta Majumder, owner of Majumder Traders that has imported more than 80,000 tonnes since July.
Traders and millers said imports soared in the current fiscal year due to a zero-duty facility for rice import and higher production of medium quality rice in India.
Majumder said a medium-quality rice variety named Swarna, which is also grown locally, is being imported in bulk due to low prices in India.
His import cost for one kilogram of Swarna stood between Tk 24.5 and Tk 25.20 yesterday — lower than the wholesale price of local Swarna at Tk 27, Majumder said.
He, however, said increased imports have put millers in a tight spot as the demand for locally grown coarse and medium quality rice has come down.
“Due to the slack demand for local Swarna, I am making profits from imports, but at the same time, incurring losses for my milled rice,” he said.
All the imports made so far this fiscal year were by the private sector.
However, imports soared though the latest harvests of aman, aus and boro rice were good.
Bangladesh produced 3.44 crore tonnes of rice in fiscal 2013-14, up from 3.38 crore tonnes a year ago, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
Production is higher than the domestic food grain requirement of nearly three crore tonnes, according to an estimate by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
Banking on the increased output, the government also shipped 25,000 tonnes of rice to Sri Lanka early this fiscal year.
Leaders of Bangladesh Auto, Major and Husking Mills Association, which has around 17,000 members, said they are demanding the government discourage imports to protect local millers and farmers.
“The demand for locally grown fine rice remains good. But the demand for coarse and medium quality rice has fallen and it can rise if the government imposes duty on imports,” he said.
In December last year, a parliamentary panel advised the food ministry to take steps to discourage imports.
Contacted by phone, Food Minister Md Qamrul Islam said the imported amount is not so high compared to domestic production. He also said imposing duty on rice imports is the jurisdiction of the commerce ministry.
(Source – http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/rice-imports-rise-to-four-year-high)