‘Govt won’t buy extra rice’

The government will not import an extra quantity of rice, because if it does so, the farming community will suffer.  

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal came up with this statement while responding to questions from reporters after chairing two separate meetings on the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs and the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase (CCGP) virtually.

The government has approved two separate proposals to import another 1.5 lakh tonnes of non-basmati rice to increase the country's food stocks.

Some 1 lakh tonnes of rice will be imported from the National Federation of Farmers' Procurement, Processing and Retailing Cooperatives of India Ltd, an Indian government organisation on agriculture.

The cabinet committee on economic affairs approved the import, the price of which will be decided later after government to government negotiations between the two neighbouring countries.

Another 50,000 tonnes of rice will be taken from M/S PK Agri Link Private Ltd—a private company—at a cost of around Tk 175 crore, according to the proposal okayed by the cabinet committee on public purchase.

Bangladesh had 4.88 lakh tonnes of foods in stocks, of which 3.99 lakh tonnes was rice as of April 4.

This year, more rice has been approved than in other years.

Replying to another question, the finance minister said that the stimulus packages announced so far are the outcome of farsighted thoughts of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina while the Ministry of Finance is executing those.

Kamal told another questioner that the approvals for rice import are being given as per the requirements while the government changes the supplier of rice and switches to another source when the assigned supplier fails to provide rice in due time.

He said that the government would not procure more rice as it will hurt the farmers, on the other hand, it would not procure rice less than the requirement as it would also hurt the consumers. “We work on this after coordination.”

Kamal mentioned that such rice purchase is being done by the Ministry of Food in alignment with the Ministry of Agriculture.

However, the proposals presented to the procurement committee included four from the Road Transport and Highways Department, one from the Energy and Mineral Resources Department, one from the Food Ministry, one from the Housing and Public Works Ministry and one from the Bridges Department. 

Meanwhile, a purchase proposal of the Road Transport and Highways Department was not approved. In addition, another proposal of the Department of Public Works under the Ministry of Housing and Public Works has been approved for re-tendering. The total amount of the approved 7 proposals is almost Tk 1755 crore.