The government will procure 50,000 tons of non-bashmoti and parboiled rice from Thailand through an international tender, official sources have said.
The Ministry of Food proposal to purchase the rice from M/S Sima Trading Company will be placed at today’s cabinet committee meeting on public purchase, which will be presided over by Finance Minister AMA Muhith.
The proposal signed by Food Secretary Md Kaikobad Hossain fixes the cost per metric ton of the staple at $438, while the total cost of the import stands at $21.9m (Tk181 crore).
According to a recent report of the Food Ministry, the government has previously failed to import 300,000 tons of rice from Thailand and India due to price differences between the two countries and the international market.
The proposal put the per unit cost of import from Thailand at $464 and from India at $454 under the government-to-government purchases.
The Food Ministry had aimed to procure one million tons of rice from international markets to meet the current shortage in rice, which fell to a five-year low of 345,000 tons on September 14.
Last month, the government signed two deals with Vietnam and Cambodia to import 2.5 million tons of rice from each of the countries.
Earlier, Food Minister Md Qamrul Islam visited Myanmar to pave the way for 10 million tons of rice to be imported over the next three years. On Sunday and Monday, a visiting Myanmar delegate held talks over the issue and decided on supplying 100,000 tons of non-boiled rice under the current government-to-government purchase at a per ton cost of $442.
The Food Ministry's recent report reveals that Bangladesh has become a surplus state in rice production, but this year is an exception due to natural disasters like flooding.
Qamrul Islam also acknowledged on Tuesday the failure of internal collection campaign, which he also blamed on the floods.
According to the ministry source, the minister set a target of 800,000 tons of rice collection internally in the current Boro season but by September 10, only 250,000 tons had been collected.
The minister earlier announced that the government will procure 1.6 million tons of paddy, rice and wheat, of which 78% was not achieved.
After the inter-ministerial meeting of Food and Expenditure Committee on August 16, Qamrul told reporters that the target of harvesting 19.1 million tons of Boro paddy was not achieved due to floods in haor and other areas.
“I did not buy the plan to procure 700,000 tons of rice and 800,000 tons of wheat,” he said.
Former food secretary Abdul Latif Mondal told the Dhaka Tribune that the Ministry of Food made a “big mistake” by not taking necessary steps at the beginning of the crisis.
He said it was too late when the import initiative was taken, and by that time the reserves ended.
“The Food Ministry depends heavily on paper information about the production," Latif said, adding that this situation is associated with other issues that have been brought together at a time.
He added that rice price might come down a little by Tk5 in November, which will still affect the lower-income groups.