The Bangladesh government has kept the customs duty (CD) on rice import unchanged despite a surge in the prices of the staple food in the domestic market. The food minister had assured last month that the import duty on rice would be relaxed for the private sector but it has not been reflected in the budget. The CD on rice imports remains static at 25 per cent at a time when prices of the staple, especially that of coarse variety, were showing an all-time high in the domestic market. The current rate of coarse rice is also one of the highest on the globe, according to the food ministry. Coarse variety Swarna was selling at Tk 46-Tk 48 a kg in Dhaka. Medium quality Brridhan-28 were trading at Tk 50-Tk 52 a kg and finer quality Miniket and Najirshail Tk 55-Tk 62 a kg in the city – 18 per cent hike in last six months. According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) and Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM) data, prices of coarse rice have surged by 42-43 per cent in Dhaka and 69-70 per cent in rural areas in last six months.
Poor people in Bangladesh were consuming coarse rice at all-time high price says agriculture economist Prof. Gazi M Jalil. He predicted the production of rice will decline this FY considering the devastating flood in haor region and occurrence of rice blast in a vast area. “Import duty on off-season coarse varieties like Swarna should be reviewed immediately till Aman harvest, which will not affect farmers but would benefit the consumers,” he clarified. The government rice stock reached a record low of only 0.213 million tonnes on Wednesday. However, the food ministry is now on trying to bring 0.9 million tonnes of rice from the international sources. The country has targeted to produce 34.98 million tonnes of rice in the outgoing fiscal year which would be tough to achieve amid the flash flood and outbreak of rice blast, said experts. He said the government’s intention was good for the farmers but it should also consider the interest of the 50 million ultra-poor.