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Rice imports hit two decade high

Rice imports hit two decade high

DHAKA: Imports of the staple stood at 22.59 lakh tonnes in July-December of fiscal 2017-18, the highest since 1998-99 when a record 30.67 lakh tonnes of rice were bought from external sources in the full fiscal year, according to food ministry data.

Analysts said imports soared in the face of speculation of a decline in yield of current aman and low stocks of previous boro rice at private mills. A slash in import duty to 2 percent from 10 percent in August gave a boost to imports. Analysts said higher imports will increase supply, thus helping to stabilise the market and benefit consumers. But the government should be watchful so that higher imports do not hurt farmers by creating a glut in the market, they added.

“Imports will continue as prices are higher in Bangladesh compared to India,” said Citta Majumder, managing director of Majumder Group of Industries. Food ministry data showed letters of credits to import 32 lakh tonnes of rice were opened until December 23 last year.

The buoyancy in imports continues at a time when farmers have harvested most of the aman crop, which accounts for 38 percent of the country’s annual rice production. The soaring imports and the harvest of aman crop have increased the availability of rice. However, prices of the staple still remain high. In Dhaka, retail prices of the coarse and medium quality rice, consumed by the majority of the population, were Tk 44 to Tk 56 a kg yesterday, according to data from the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).