Govt plans to speed up rice imports in wake of flooding

The government of Bangladesh will speed up plans to import rice that it brought in to build reserves and rein in local prices after flash floods hit domestic output, government officials said on Thursday.

As part of that, a Bangladeshi delegation is now in Vietnam to finalize imports of the staple grain in a government-to-government deal, said a procurement official, declining to be pariza rice panicleidentified as he was not authorized to speak with media. He did not give further details on the transaction.

Ramped up demand from Bangladesh, the world’s fourth-biggest rice producer, could underpin prices in major exporters Vietnam, Thailand and India.

“We are making frantic efforts to boost state reserves and bring down prices of rice,” said the procurement official.

Local rice prices have reached record highs and state reserves are at six-year lows in the wake of flooding in April that wiped out around 700,000 tonnes of output.

The state grains buyer earlier this month said it would ship in 600,000 tonnes of rice after the flooding, initially issuing two tenders for a total of 100,000 tonnes of rice, its first such tenders since 2011.

Meanwhile, the procurement official said the government had decided not to withdraw duty on private rice imports, looking to protect farmers.

Bangladesh produces around 34 million tonnes of rice annually but uses almost all its production to feed its population of 160 million. It often requires imports, however, to cope with shortages caused by natural calamities like floods and droughts.