Rice import target still on uncertainty
Indian variant of corona hits import
Golam Mostafa Jibon: Uncertainty to meet the target of rice import from abroad has been created again due to recent military coup in Myanmar and sudden rising of incidences from coronavirus’s new variant in India that leads to complexities in some rules.
Spread of Indian variant of coronavirus across the border has grown the uncertainty massively.
According to the sources, the government last year decided to import rice to increase stocks amid fears that the market could be destabilized by the corona pandemic.
Though, several months have already passed since the deal, about half of the contracted rice has not yet been come from abroad. None can say surely, when the rest (See Page-2)
of the rice will come or not.
At present, the government has a stock of around 6 lakh tons of rice, which is not enough for this pandemic and natural disaster period.
As the price of rice in the market continued to rise abnormally last year, experts suggested increasing the stock of rice through official imports. Then, the government took initiative to import 3 lakh tons of rice. But later, as market prices and the government’s stock situation had started to worsening, plans were taken to procure a total of 13 lakh tons of rice in several phases.
Of them, work order was given for 10.5 lakh tons of rice. Till last month, around 5.69 lakh tons of rice arrived in the country. Of the work order given 10.5 lakh tons of rice, some 9 lakh tons were contracted with India. Of this, 4.98 lakh tons of rice has reached to the country. Only 20,615 tons out of total 1 lakh tons has come from Myanmar. Around 50,000 tons of rice has come from Vietnam, which is around cent percent according to the contract.
Replying to a query, Food Secretary Moshammat Nazmanara Khanum said, “Agreements has been executed with three countries. There was no problem in getting rice from Vietnam. We have got 100 percent of the contracted rice. But the problem has ensued over the rice import from India and Myanmar.
India has supplied most of the rice as per deal. We are still getting rice. But, problem has intensified over coming and going that causing somewhat disruption due to corona related restrictions.
The big problem is here that carrying rice from Kalkata through big ships is being disrupted dastrically due to navigability crisis in the river route.
India claimed that, due to lack of navigability in Kalkata port, large ships can’t anchor. So, they are sending a maximum of 5,000 tons of rice in small ships. This is cause of delay.
Due to problems in transporting rice from India, the government decided to import rice by train for the first time this month. The rice will enter Bangladesh by train from Kalkata and Chhattrisgarh via Benapole and Darshana. This will be the first shipment of rice by train. In the last few months, the government has approved various proposals to import rice from India in several phases due to various complications of rice import. Even then, the rice is coming slowly. Uncertainty is not removing. Meanwhile, there are fears about whether the full agreement will be available in the country.
Muhammad Mahbubur Rahman, Senior Assistant Secretary (foreign procurement) at the Food Ministry said, “Various countries are trying to collect rice from India due to the food crisis during pandemic. It has increased the price of rice in India.”
“As a result, those who had earlier agreed to give us rice, are no longer able to give us rice at that price. Those, who had previous stocks, are giving. But, the demand of rice has increased in the Indian market in which the country is showing disinterest to give us rice as per the deal. In addition, ship fares and other transport costs have risen sharply in India. All in all, it has become uncertain to get full of the contracted rice from India,” he added.
On the other hand, Myanmar’s military government is not cooperating much.
He further said that, “There is not much need for imported rice now. Even, if we don’t get rice from abroad now, there will be no problem. We will be able to collect enough rice from the borough.”
Meanwhile, the Food Ministry has set a target of collecting 6.5 lakh tons of paddy from farmers and 10 lakh tons from millers during the Boro season. But, there is a doubt about how much rice collection is possible. This is because, the government has not been able to procure rice according to the necessity since corona epidemic last year, even though the distribution has increased under various projects including social security fences.
In the last Aman season, even 10 percent of the target of procuring paddy and rice from the farmers was not met.
The government could not buy rice even in the Boro season as the price of rice was high in the market. Therefore, there is a risk of disaster this year in rice collection like last year.
Experts said, the government has less rice stocks than the past decade, while it has practically failed to import at this time. The country plans to procure more rice from the market. Its negative impact could fall on the market.
M Asaduzzaman, former Research Director of Bangladesh Development Research Institute (BIDS) said, “The best solution to reduce rice prices was to import rice from abroad by the government. But, the government could not do that. Now, it plans to procure more and more rice from internal resources to increase stocks. But the big question is to what extent it will be possible to implement the plan.”
Agriculturist Professor Mohammad Jahangir Alam Khan said, “The government could not control the market as there was no stock of rice in the warehouses in the last two seasons. The situation has not improved yet. The syndicate will remain active during the Boro season as well. They want the government to be ineffective. Let the price of rice go up. Because of various private traders are involved to collect rice from abroad. They will never want to incur losses.
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