Bangladesh will require importing over 8 million MT of wheat and corn in 2019-20
Bangladesh’s rice production is expected to increase for the second straight year in a row, thanks to good weather and increased yield due to continuing cultivation of hybrid and high-yielding varieties (HYV).
However, as far as overall cereal production is concerned, the country’s import dependency on wheat and corn continues to rise.
A recent report of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed Bangladesh’s total rice area and production levels in 2019-20 (May-April) are projected to increase slightly to 11.8 million hectares and 35.3 million metric tons, respectively, assuming good weather and increased yield in 2019-20 market year.
The US agency's market year (MY) runs from May to April.
So the projected the output is higher than 2018-19’s 34.9 million MT and the previous market year’s (2017-18) 32.6 million MT, thereby largely making Bangladesh self-sufficient in its staple production.
But thanks to rising demand of a growing population, greater diversified use, and expectations of low international prices, the country is projected to import as high as 6.3 million MT of wheat in the 2019-20 marketing year.
Furthermore, due to increased feed demand from the expanding poultry sector, Bangladesh’s corn import is also forecast to rise to 2 million MT.
USDA report says, winter season rice (Boro) area is forecast to increase as farmers are expected to switch to rice from wheat and minor vegetables. It says that farmers will continue cultivating Boro rice considering it to be a comparatively lower risk crop.
According to the Ministry of Food, as of March 19, 2019, public rice stocks are 1.37 MMT, which is approximately 33% higher than last year.
Besides, USDA also notes that the government of Bangladesh has a long term plan to expand rice cultivation in Aus rice season (March-August), as it is cultivated during the rainy season when no supplementary irrigation is required.
With the aim of attracting farmers to Aus rice cultivation, the government has announced seed and input support to farmers producing rice.
As far as wheat is concerned, Bangladesh only meet a sixth of its annual requirement of seven million MT of the cereal from domestic production.
But in coming season, some farmers are expected to plant wheat in place of corn on expectations of higher profit margins and reduced risk of Fall Armyworm (FAW) attack. In 2019-20 marketing year wheat production is estimated at 1.15 million MT assuming favorable weather conditions.
The wheat consumption forecast is, however, raised to 7.7 million MT in 2019-20, assuming more consumption of processed foods made from wheat flour. The consumption of wheat is increasing due to changing consumer behavior as a result of increased per capita income and improved socio-economic conditions at the household level in urban areas.
With increased industrialization and associated labour in urban areas, consumption of processed confectionaries has increased significantly.
Due to the increased market demand, newer brand and non-brand processed food industries are setting up in urban and periurban areas, thereby gradually increasing demand for wheat flour.
USDA estimates 3.47 million MT corn production in Bangladesh in 2019-20, assuming normal weather conditions during the season.
However, it reads: “Due to FAW attack on corn fields, the possibility of a reduced harvest is higher, but current FAW presence information is insufficient to forecast possible corn production loss.”
The presence of FAW has been identified in about 46 hectares of corn fields, comprising 70 sub-districts in 22 districts located in northern, central, and eastern parts of the country.
The government has formed a national taskforce and initiated an emergency contingency plan to work with farmers to raise awareness and train them on integrated pest management techniques.
The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) under Agriculture Ministry is intensively working with farmers to identify and take measures that are followed internationally to eradicate this invasive pest.
Expansion of the livestock and fisheries sectors has created further demand for corn which is supplied by both domestic production and imports. In 2019-20 marketing year, corn consumption is projected to grow 1.9% to 5.4 MMT, assuming a normal pace in corn use for feed in the poultry, aquaculture, and livestock sectors.
And USDA says, the poultry sector in Bangladesh is gearing up to export eggs and poultry meat by 2024, especially to the Middle East, a large market for halal meat.