More rice on way from India, Thailand


The government is set to import 1 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice from neighbouring India under a state-to-state arrangement as part of its aggressive push to boost stocks.

The development comes after the cabinet committees on economic affairs and purchase yesterday approved the proposal for import of rice for $455 per tonne -- $15 less than what the government paid to bring in the food grain from Vietnam earlier.

This comes after the committees last week approved the import of 1 lakh tonne of white rice from Myanmar for $442 per tonne under a similar arrangement.

Earlier in June, the government imported 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice for $470 per tonne from Vietnam under a government-to-government arrangement.

Another 1.5 lakh tonnes of rice will soon be brought in from Thailand for $465 per tonne, said food ministry officials.

In recent months, the government has moved to import rice through competitive bidding, which tends to be lower than the price obtained under government-to-government arrangements.

For instance, last week, 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice was imported through competitive bidding -- for $427 per tonne.

Under state-to-state arrangement rice price is usually higher. But the government opts for such arrangement as the supply is ensured and the quality is also better.

Since June, the government took up an aggressive approach to import rice after production was badly struck by flash floods and fungal attacks.

The flash floods in the six northeastern haor districts and fungal attacks (rice blast) in 19 districts during the boro season led to the loss of 20 lakh tonnes of the staple, according to the food ministry.

Subsequently, the government also decided to import 20 lakh tonnes of food grains -- 15 lakh tonnes of rice and 5 lakh tonnes of wheat -- this fiscal year.

This is 11 lakh tonnes more than the government's earlier projected food import volume of 9 lakh tonnes.

Due to food crisis, the import of rice at both the government and private levels have picked up.

From July 1 to October 4, 10.78 lakh tonnes of rice was imported, of which the government brought in 2.94 lakh tonnes. Last fiscal year the government did not import any rice. However, at the private level 13.30 lakh tonnes of rice was imported, a major portion of which was towards the end of the year.

The cabinet committee on purchase also gave the approval to a Chinese state-owned firm to build six full-fledged TV stations in six divisional cities.

The Chinese company Aerospace Long-March International Trade and Radio, Film & TV Design and Research Institute will jointly make the studio and architectural design of the administrative building for about $125 million, which is equivalent to Tk 999 crore.

The total project cost is Tk 1,391 crore, of which the Chinese government will provide Tk 999 crore as loan.

The six TV stations will be set up in Khulna, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Sylhet, Barisal and Mymensingh, and the total cost has been estimated to be Tk 1,391 crore. China will provide 72 percent of the sum as buyer's credit.

After a detailed discussion, BTV and the Chinese company have prepared the draft commercial contract, said an information ministry official. It will be activated after the financial agreement is signed.

Last year, during the Chinese president's Bangladesh visit, China committed to give loans to 27 projects, one of which is the one for TV stations.


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