Big dive in food grain import continuesAKM Zamir Uddin and Ahmed Shawki
The country’s import bills for major food grains have continued to fall during the first five months of the current fiscal year because of rise in rice production.
The farmers, however, are incurring losses because of higher rice production.
The import bill payment for rice and wheat in July-November of the current fiscal year fell by 37.83 per cent to $296.48 million from that of same period of the last fiscal year.
The import bill for the food grains was $476.87 million in July-November of the last financial year which was 1.03 per cent lower than the same period of the previous year, showed Bangladesh Bank data released on Thursday.
According to food ministry data till January 1, the total import of rice and wheat was 9.5 lakh tonnes in July-December. Of the import wheat was 9.35 lakh tonnes and rice was only 15,000 tonnes.
The country imported 22 lakh tonnes of wheat and rice in 2011-12 which was 56 per cent lower than the previous financial year, cutting the country’s import bills by $1 billion.
In that period, 14.2 lakh tonnes of wheat was imported when rice import was 5.2 lakh tonnes.
Food ministry officials said that import of rice by the government had almost stopped this financial year with the total import standing at around 3,600 tonnes in July-December because of bumper production of boro and aman.
Besides, rice import by private sector was also low at around 12,000 tonnes during the period as the rice price in the local market remained relatively low.
They, however, said that the wheat import figure at the end of this fiscal year might be similar to that of the last fiscal year.
‘The fall of major food item import was good as it saved the foreign currency for the country and at the same time indicated food security,’ Mahabub Hossain, executive director of BRAC, told New Age.
He said the country was self-sufficient on major food items and could now go for exporting rice.
‘The government did not buy rice and wheat this financial year. Some imported food grains landed early this year was due to the orders in the last year,’ he said.
When asked about the setback for local farmers due to such good harvests as they are getting low prices, Hossain replied, ‘The government could go for exporting rice which is likely to keep the local market afloat.’
He said that as the government was concerned about the country’s food security in mass level it could not go for exporting.
‘In previous experiences, the government failed to buy rice from the international market in emergencies which perhaps held it back from exporting rice,’ he said.
Bangladesh Bank officials said that the opening of letters of credit for food grain import also continued to fall in July-November which indicated that the food grain import in the coming months would also be lower.
Importers, including the government, opened LCs worth $348.89 million for import of food grains, mainly of wheat, in July-November.
The figure is 10.37 per cent lower than the opening of LCs in July-November last year when LCs worth $389.24 million were opened for food grain imports.
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