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Dhaka Tribune

Debunking Bangladesh’s rice import paradox

BRRI says despite a 10% crop loss owing to monsoon, there will be a net surplus of three million tons of rice even after meeting consumption needs till mid-2021

Update : 23 Dec 2020, 06:52 PM

In a span of one month time, Bangladesh has floated as many as five international tenders seeking to import 250,000 tons of rice.

Interestingly, the food directorate has started an import frenzy at a time when another government body-run nationwide survey found Bangladesh well poised with its home-grown rice availability.

The country’s premier rice research establishment – Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) – says despite a 10% crop loss owing to monsoon deluge this year, there will be a net surplus of three million tons of rice even after meeting consumption needs of the staple till mid-2021. 

BRRI also cautioned against import during peak harvesting season, which in turn will have dampening effects on domestic rice price.

Then question emerges — why the government needs to import rice? BRRI survey report has got the answer.

It says the government needs to expedite its rice procurement drive and buy paddy directly from the farmers.

Rice Import Volume
Tender Floating Date
50,000 tons
November 15
50,000 tons
November 19
50,000 tons
December 9
50,000 tons
December 14
50,000 tons
December 17

Source: Directorate General of Food

Rice is there in the country but not much in the government’s hand. The food directorate’s failures to buy paddy directly from farmers and replenish the dwindling stock in public granaries has pushed the government to a situation where imports become a necessity for immediate rebuilding of a dried-up stock.

When rice is available in plenty in the markets, its amount in the government stock hit a record low of 550,000 tons, half the amount of Bangladesh’s food safety threshold level.

The amount of paddy the food directorate bought from farmers over the past one months since beginning of this year’s Aman procurement season is a classic reflection of lacklustre attitude in buying grains from the growers, who need the state-sponsored price benefit most. 

As against a target of buying 200,000 tons of paddy from farmers in November-February Aman procurement season, the food directorate has so far bought a paltry 267 tons.

In the previous Boro season, the directorate had also managed to accomplish buying only a fourth of its targeted paddy procurement.

Due to such lacklustre procurement drive run by the directorate, the government will now have to foot a huge import bill for the staple.

“The government must increase volume of paddy it buys from the farmers. The government’s paddy and rice procurement drives have to be much more dynamic and farmers-friendly,” says BRRI, cautioning against importing rice during domestic rice growing season.

On Tuesday, BRRI shared outcome of its nationwide survey findings showing that despite a flood-induced 10% loss in Aman season, the country’s aggregate rice output (Aus, Aman, Boro – all three rice seasons in total) is projected to be 37.42 million tons.

According to BRRI, this amount of rice is well enough to cover domestic requirements of the staple till June next year and still there will be a surplus rice availability of three million tons.     

Led by its Director General Dr Md. Shahjahan Kabir, a five-strong BRRI core research team conducted the survey among 2,000 farmers and farm officials in 14 farming zones spread all over the country to conclude that there exists no food security concern in Bangladesh right at the moment. 

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