The import of rice increased by 295 per cent to $63.59 million in November this year from $16.07 million in the same month a year ago, although the government has started to export rice to Sri Lanka for the first time.
According to Bangladesh Bank data released on Monday apart from the huge import rice of November, letters of credit worth $59.81 million were opened in the month for import of the food grain.
Food ministry officials said that the government was also considering an Indian proposal to export 30,000 tonnes of rice to the country.
According to the ministry data, Bangladesh imported 4,58,000 tonnes of rice between July 1 and December 24 of the current financial year 2014-15 against import of 3,74,000 tonnes of rice in the whole FY14.
Kawsar Alam Khan, vice-president of the Bangladesh Rice Merchants Association, told New Age on Monday that there was no urgency to import coarse variety of rice from abroad as the domestic production of the item was slightly in surplus.
‘Despite repeated protest from the traders, the government has not banned the import of rice and an influential quarter is gaining benefits from such type of import,’ he alleged.
Kawsar said the import of rice should be banned for the greater interest of the country.
The import cost of the coarse variety of rice from India stands at Tk 26-Tk 26.50 and the item is retailing at Tk 28-Tk 29 a kg while the local item is selling at Tk 30-Tk 31 a kg, he said.
Kawsar alleged that farmers were not getting fair prices of their product due to the lower prices of the imported rice.
‘It seems like a fun to export rice after huge amount of import of the item,’ he said.
Bangladesh Bank officials said that the government’s initiative to export of rice would give chance to the importers to get more profits by creating an artificial rice crisis.
Bangladesh Bank data showed that before November, the import of rice increased by 81.58 per cent to $129.88 million in the first four months of the FY15 from $71.53 million during the corresponding period of the FY14.
The BB data showed that the country’s overall imports increased by 5.87 per cent in November of this year against a 7.33-per cent growth in the corresponding month of last year due mainly to higher import of food products and capital machinery, according to the latest BB data released on Monday.
The settlement of letters of credit, generally known as actual import, stood at $3.02 billion in November this year. The figure was $2.85 billion in November 2013 and $2.66 billion in November 2012.
LC settlements in November for wheat and refined edible oil were worth $67.90 million and $76.19 million respectively against $26.51 million and $37.56 million in November 2013.
The settlement of LCs for capital machinery stood at $212.20 million in November against $157.66 million during the same month of the FY14.
A BB official told New Age on Monday that there was no logical reason for the rise in the machinery import in the recent months of the FY15 due to a dull business situation amid political uncertainty.
But, the huge import payments for capital machinery raised a suspicion that money might have been laundered abroad, he said.
The official said the import might decrease in the coming months as the country’s business sector was still facing political uncertainty.
The BB data showed that back-to-back imports for the readymade garment sector declined in November as the export of RMG products decreased in the recent months.
LC settlements for the import of back-to-back products of the RMG sector — fabrics and accessories — decreased to $447.46 million in
November from $460.63 million during the same month a year ago.
The BB official said retailers from the United States and the European countries had
significantly cut their import orders of RMG products from Bangladesh after the collapse of Rana Plaza, which housed apparel factories.
The BB data showed that the opening of letters of credit, also known as actual import orders, posted a 16.11-per cent growth in November this year compared with that of 2.12 per cent growth in the same month of 2013.
In November this year, LCs worth $3.30 billion were opened by the banks. LCs worth $2.84 billion were opened in November 2013 and $2.78 billion in November 2012.
Courtesy: The New Age