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Dhaka Tribune

Government food reserves fall

Update : 21 Apr 2013, 05:46 AM


The government’s stock of food grain has started to dwindle, while safety-net initiatives like subsidised sales continue unabated.

Authorities say there is nothing to be worried about, although agricultural economists have mentioned that a boro rice production shortfall could cause a potential crisis.

On April 9, reserves were at 1.02m tonnes, of which 0.85m tonnes was rice and the rest was wheat. The government normally sets aside 1.5m tonnes of food grain to tackle emergencies.

Last November, the country's grain reserves stood at 1.58m tonnes, the highest in a decade.

"The situation is still comfortable, even with the marginal decline,” Ahmed Hossain Khan, director general of the Directorate of Food, told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.

“The grain prices are stable despite continued strikes and political unrest because of a bumper aman rice harvest," he added.

Khan was hopeful that prices would fall further after the boro harvest. He also said that the government plans to import rice to replenish stocks.

But Brac’s executive director Dr Mahbub Hasan has concerns about falling food reserves, since a shortfall in boro production is likely.

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Mahbub, who is also the vice president of the Asian Society of Agricultural Economists, said that boro production might be hampered because there has not been enough rain in March, and the situation could remain unchanged in April.

Imports can cover the difference, but this would be costly. Mahbub points out that buying rice on the global market could cost upwards of Tk50 per kg.

According to the food directorate, the government plans to import about 375,000 tonnes of rice during the 2013-14 fiscal year (May to April), up from rice imports in 2012-13, which were estimated at 40,000 tonnes.

In the last boro season, authorities procured 696,113 tonnes of rice and distributed over 1m tonnes through various schemes.

At present, coarse rice and unpacked flour, the two most consumed items in the country, sell at Tk34 and Tk39 per kg, respectively. According to the state-owned Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), prices of coarse rice and flour increased by 3.33% and 5.97%, respectively, over last 12 months.

Bangladesh's average annual demand for food grains is 29m tonnes, and the food production target in the current fiscal year is 36.6m tonnes, by food directorate estimates.

The subsidised sale of rice and flour began in mid-March. Under this scheme, a family can buy up to five kg of rice at Tk24 per kg, and the same amount of flour at Tk20 per kg, every day.



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