Dhaka – In the wake of a flood feared to be devastating, Bangladesh has decided to import 1.5 million tonnes of rice and 500,000 tonnes of wheat apparently to face an imminent crisis.
The government’s Food Monitoring and Evaluation division at a meeting headed by Food Minister Quamrul Islam on Wednesday also decided to lower the rice import duty to two percent from existing 10 per cent to encourage private businesses to import the prime staple.
“The decision does not mean that there is a shortage of food in the country. It is for precaution,” the minister told reporters after the meeting.
In June this year, the government had decided to reduce the import duty on rice to 10 per cent from 28 per cent as crops on a vast area of marshland in the north-eastern Bangladesh were damaged by an untimely flash-flood in April.
The country had set a target of 19.01 million tonnes of rice this year to feed its more than 160 million people. But the flood in April and BLAST (a disease for paddy) caused damage to the harvest, said the minister.
Lowering the import duty on rice would encourage the private business to import the food and help keep the price stable in the domestic market, justified the minister.
The minister, however, claimed the price of rice in domestic market was within the reach of the common people.
He informed reporters that the process of 250,000 tonnes of rice from Vietnam was almost completed. Yet another 250,000 tonnes of rice will be imported from Cambodia provided the cabinet committee on purchase approves the proposal.
The minister said distribution of food among the poor and destitute was on.
More than each of the 5 million poor people will be provided with food aid from the next month. They will be provided with 30 kg of rice at the cost of Tk 10 per Kg for three months.