Rice import duty to be cut by 18%

  • Rice import duty to be cut by 18%
    Both coarse rice and fine rice prices rose over the past month
     
    DHAKA TRIBUNE

    The price of coarse rice in the capital was increased by Tk5 per kg which is now selling at Tk48 at new normal from the earlier rate of Tk45

    The government has decided to cut the duty on rice import by 18% amid the soaring prices of the staple food in the markets, officials have said. Besides, the government stocks have come down to lower than 1,90,000 tonnes in the wake of an insufficient supply from the ongoing rice procurement programme. The stock of rice stands at 1,81,000 tonnes till June 18, according to the Directorate General of Food. The price of coarse rice in the capital was increased by Tk5 per kg which is now selling at Tk48 at new normal from the earlier rate of Tk45. Stakeholders, however, said the price of rice is unlikely to come down in the local market unless the Indian course rice enters the market along with the Vietnamese rice being imported by the government. They added that the government will face serious problem despite the import duty cut if the Indian authority hikes its export price limit to Bangladesh. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed revealed the decision of reduction in rice import duty at a workshop on Tuesday. “We hope the price of rice will fall by Tk6 a kg after the import duty cut and import from the neighbouring country,” he said. He said following the NBR circular, a 10% duty will be slapped on rice import instead of previous 28%. In 2015, the government imposed a 15% regulatory duty and 3% supplementary duty for protection of local rice farmers. Tofail added that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the decision to slash rice import duty during the cabinet meeting on Monday. Rice prices saw a sharp rise as the millers had to count losses due to recent flash floods in hoar areas in the country. Prices of coarse rice, which is generally consumed by the poor and lower-middle income groups, have shot up by 5% to 10% in grocery stores across the country. Usually, it is not possible to intervene in the market with only less than two hundred thousand tonnes of rice in the government’s hand. Naogoan Rice Mill owner Nirod Chandra Shah told the Dhaka Tribune there will definitely be a pause in the upward trend of rice price after the duty cut. “But it is our fear that the Indian authority might increase the price of their exported rice as our government reduces the import duty.” Nirod also mentioned that the Indian authority increased their export in recent years. He said: “The per-tonne cost of exported coarse rice is now only $420 while local coarse rice sells at between $480 and $500 in our market.” Former commerce adviser to the past caretaker government and chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune “The government could take decision to reduce the import duty a couple of months ago. It has been too late for the government to decide on rice import from Vietnam, he added. In order to avoid an untoward situation, the government has to remove all bureaucratic tangles to facilitate the availability of rice in the market, he suggested. The US Department of Agriculture and Foreign Agricultural Services (FAS) in a report said in Fiscal Year 2016-17, rice production in Bangladesh is likely to fall by 34.51 million tonnes due to reduced planting of its summer rice and increased winter rice production.
  • Govt floats more tenders to import rice, wheat in desperate bid to bring down local prices

  • Government data shows a 47 percent rise in the price of coarse rice while a fine variety saw around 20 percent rise in a year. File photo
     
    The Directorate General of Food posted two separated tender notices on its website on Tuesday, just ten days before this fiscal year ends.
  • No sign of stability in rice market

  •  

    Private sector import hits 4-year low as 28pc import duty discourages importers amid rising price in global market

     
     
    Rice import by the private sector has dropped to a four-year low at a time when its prices have shot up in the domestic market. Traders imported only 1.2 lakh tonnes of rice till mid-June in the current fiscal year against 2.56 lakh tonnes in the previous fiscal year.  Its import has not dipped so low since 2012 when 29,000 tonnes of rice were imported. Importers blame the existing 28 percent tariff on rice import for the decline. As the domestic rice market has become volatile, the government is trying to replenish its depleting stock through quick import. But it hasn't yet made any move to encourage rice import by the private sector. 
     
    Last week, the government decided to import parboiled rice from Vietnam for more than Tk 39 a kg. The state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh recorded 47 percent hike in the prices of coarse rice this month compared to that in the corresponding month last year.

    TARIFF DISCOURAGING IMPORT

    Government statistics show letters of credit were opened for import of 2.25 lakh tonnes of rice in the current fiscal year but the private sector imported only half the quantity till mid-June.  Market sources told The Daily Star that though import of more rice is in the pipeline, the importers are making delay in bringing shipments with the hope that the government would soon go for a tariff cut.   With rice prices going up in the global market, local traders are increasingly finding it difficult to make a profit after paying high tariff on import. Market sources said rice import is no longer lucrative for traders as they have to pay 28 percent tariff on top of high import costs.  They are not showing interest in importing rice though its prices have shot up in the local market (coarse rice Tk 48 a kg). They are still waiting for the government to withdraw the import duty.

    PRICES UP IN INT'L MARKET

    A food ministry document shows that price of parboiled rice rose to $410 a tonne this month from $384 a tonne in June last year and $397 in the previous month. In May-June this year, parboiled rice prices rose by 3.3 percent in India, 5.6 percent in Thailand and 2.4 percent in Pakistan, while the price of Vietnamese white rice (atap) went up by 8.2 percent, show yesterday's data by the Food Planning and Monitoring Unit (FPMU) of the food ministry. Last month, Bangladesh struck two deals to import 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice for $427.85 a tonne and another 50,000 tonnes of white rice for $406.48 a tonne. Only two weeks later, it signed a deal with Vietnam for importing 2.5 lakh tonnes of rice (50,000 tonnes of parboiled and two lakh tonnes of white rice) at a higher price. It agreed to pay $470 a tonne for parboiled rice and $430 a tonne for white rice.  Food ministry sources said that apart from Bangladesh, at least six other countries sought to import rice from Vietnam in recent weeks, resulting in a hike in demand and the price. The six countries are the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cuba and China.

    RATIONALE BEHIND TARIFF

    The government didn't have to import rice since fiscal 2011-12 due to successive good yields of rice in harvest seasons.  But taking advantage of the zero-tariff import facility, private importers brought in 3.75 lakh tonnes of rice in fiscal 2013-14 and nearly 15 lakh tonnes in the following fiscal year, flooding the domestic market with cheap Indian rice. To protect local rice growers, the government imposed a high tariff of 28 percent on rice import in two phases in 2015. Talking to The Daily Star, agricultural economist Dr Jahangir Alam said import tariff should not be static. The government should adjust it according to the given situation. Omer Azam, general secretary of Chittagong Rice Traders Association, said rice production is likely to fall short of the target and the domestic market now requires an increased supply through import for price stabilisation. But importers are waiting for a government decision on tariff cut, he added. Though the food ministry has proposed a tariff cut on rice import, the finance ministry is yet to decide on it.

    WHY RICE PRICES SOARED?

    In addition to open market sale, vulnerable group feeding and other social safety net programmes, the government late last year introduced Tk 10-a-kg rice programme for five million ultra poor. Over the last one year, many such government programmes have led to the depletion of food reserve with rice stock falling to a six-year low of 1.9 lakh tonnes. On the other hand, the food department's initiative to replenish rice stock by procuring Boro fizzled out. Millers refused to sell rice to the department for Tk 34 a kg set by the government. In the first 11 months of this fiscal year, 14.83 lakh tonnes of rice were distributed under various government programmes against 11.75 lakh tonnes in the corresponding period of fiscal 2015-16. Under the fair price programme alone, 6.84 lakh tonnes of rice were distributed.  An unusual early flashflood that struck the haor region in late March caused a loss of Boro rice totalling one million tonnes. According to market sources, blast attacks (fungi attack) also led to a loss of Boro rice in 19 districts. But the agriculture department claimed that the loss was nominal. Experts and agricultural economists say the government's temporal inability to go for market intervention due to its current low stock allowed rice millers and traders to hike the prices. Rice prices would be stable if supply of the staple is increased in the domestic market quickly through imports by both the government and private channels, they noted.
  • Asia Rice-Strong demand helps prices extend gains

  • * Prices rise in Thailand, India, Vietnam * Bangladesh seals import deal with Vietnam By My Pham VIETNAM, June 15 Asian rice prices rose this week, extending gains from the week before on strong demand from importers including Bangladesh and the Philippines, traders said on Thursday. In Thailand, benchmark 5-percent broken rice RI-THBKN5-P1 was quoted at $450-$457 a tonne, free-on-board (FOB) Bangkok, up from $440-$457 last week. Thai rice prices have been rising steadily since March, when traders started loading ships, and touched levels unseen since August 2013 last week. Exporters continue to buy the grain from rice millers to fulfill shipments, with demand from Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq and the Philippines keeping prices high, traders said. "Prices are still rising and haven't stopped," a Bangkok-based trader said. "Supply is low and exporters are still buying stocks for shipment, and global demand is still high." The Thai off-season crop is expected to arrive from around August to September. In Vietnam, the 5-percent broken rice RI-VNBKN5-P1 was quoted at $410 a tonne, FOB Saigon, up from $395-$400 last week and the highest level since November 2014. Vietnam's new harvest season begins late-June, traders said. Rice prices in the country have increased since early May on expectation of stronger demand from foreign rice importers amid limited supply. Bangladesh will import 200,000 tonnes of white rice at $430 a tonne, and 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice at $470 a tonne from Vietnam in a government-to-government deal, said Ataur Rahman, additional secretary at the food ministry. The rice will be shipped in 60 days, with the first consignment expected to arrive in 15 days, Rahman said. Bangladesh is also in talks with Thailand and India to import rice to cool record-high local prices at a time when state rice stocks are at 10-year lows. The Philippines has said it would issue a tender next month to import 250,000 tonnes of the grain from Thailand and Vietnam, and possibly also India. In India, 5 percent broken parboiled rice prices RI-INBKN5-P1 jumped by $7.00 per tonne to $422-$425 on a rally in overseas prices and good demand from buyers in Africa. "Earlier, buyers were shifting to other suppliers as Indian rice was expensive. Now, since prices have risen in Thailand and Vietnam, we are equally competitive," said an exporter based in Kakinada in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. India's non-basmati rice exports in April fell 18.5 percent from a year ago to 475,050 tonnes due to a stronger rupee. "We have to raise prices considering (the) rising rupee and tight supplies of paddy rice," said another exporter based in Kakinada. The rupee has risen 5.7 percent so far in 2017 and is trading near its highest level in 21 months. A strong rupee trims returns for exporters. (Reporting by My Pham in HANOI, Patpicha Tanakasempipat in BANGKOK, Rajendra Jadhav in MUMBAI, and Ruma Paul in DHAKA; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)
  • International rice prices soar as Bangladesh seeks import

  • Bangladesh has been seeking to import rice from other countries to meet domestic demands, but now prices in the international market have started to soar. There are all signs of a big crisis in the global rice market, according to international agencies. Sri Lanka had been trying to procure rice from the international market prior to Bangladesh and now the Philippines has joined the search too. China, which produces the most rice, has seen a slump in production this year. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says if this country, self-sufficient in food, begins to import rice from the global market, there is all likelihood that rice prices will go up further. Within Bangladesh, rice prices are at an all-time high. The rice procurement drive has been a failure so far. Rice in government stock is at the lowest and no time soon will rice be imported from the international market. Bangladesh is at a loss in face of this crisis. According to the food ministry reports, this week coarse rice sold in Dhaka’s markets at Tk 45 to 48 per kg. The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) says that over the past one year, rice prices in the country have gone up 42 per cent. Mid and fine grain rice sells between Tk 48 to Tk 56 per kg. Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Emeritus fellow M Asaduzzaman told Prothom Alo that in keeping with production and supply within the country, there is no way that the price of rice should be Tk 48. Traders are well aware that given their depleted stock, the government cannot intervene in the market. The government also has no idea how much the rice mills and traders have in stock. The Bangladesh government has signed an MOU to purchase 1 million tonnes of rice from Vietnam. Over the last month Vietnam raised its rice price by Tk 1120 or US$ 12 per tonnes. The food ministry is looking expressed interest in importing 700 thousand tonnes of rice from India and Thailand. These two countries too have raised their rice prices over the past month by US$ 8 and US$ 13 per tonne respectively. M Asaduzzaman, an expert in the field, blames the food ministry and minister for this predicament. He points out that the government’s rice stock has fallen below 200 thousand tonnes, whereas it should be 600 thousand tonnes at least. The moment the stock fell below 500 thousand tonnes, the minister should have taken initiative to replenish the stock. Such irresponsible behavoiur over a politically sensitive matter as rice would have cost the job of the food minister in India or the UK. Former director general of BIDS Kazi Shahabuddin told Prothom Alo that rice prices in the international market are going up. The government should immediately import price before the prices escalate further. Opportunity must be given to private sector rice import by cutting import duty. If not, a crisis will emerge and the prices will be even steeper. Director general of the food directorate Badrul Hasan told Prothom Alo, “There are laws to take action against the rice mills which refuse to give the government grain. We are compiling a list of such mills. Those who are supplying rice to the government will be given priority and special facilities next year.” Speaking to Prothom Alo agitatedly, food minister Kamrul Islam said, “You all wrote that the people of Bangladesh are eating less rice. Now what will you write? That they are eating rice starch?” About rising rice prices in the international market, the minister said, “There is no hide-and-seek about international rice prices. It’s all there on the Internet.” After an MOU is signed, it takes about two months for the rice to arrive from abroad. The food minister went to Vietnam and this month a delegation from Vietnam will come to negotiate prices and other details. Then it will take another month to send the rice. So Bangladesh will be having to purchase rice at the future higher prices from Vietnam, India and Thailand. In the meantime, the government has no tool to control rice prices in the interim period. It’s all in the hands of the businesses. The government is simply waiting and watching for the supply to go up and the prices to fall.
  • Coarse rice price soars

  • 42pc rise in a year; govt to import 3 lakh tonnes of rice on urgent basis

     
     
     
    Among the essential commodities, coarse rice price registered the highest rise in the last one year, according to the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) which keeps track of prices of daily necessities. Prices of coarse rice, mostly consumed by the poor and people of lower-middle income groups, went up 42 percent since June last year. Even though the private sector imported one lakh tonne of rice during that time, paying 25 percent import duty, the price of a kg of coarse rice was Tk 45-46 this week. In the first week of June 2016, it was Tk 30-34 a kg. Though prices of finer and medium quality rice varieties registered 9 to 20 percent rise during the same period, price hike of coarse rice was worrying the government. To add to its worries, public granaries now only have 2.5 lakh tonnes of rice, a six-year low year end stock.
     
    Over 10 lakh tonnes of boro crop were lost this year to early flooding in seven haor districts and fungi (rice blast) attack in 19 districts. These forced the government to renew a 2011 memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Vietnam for 3 lakh tonnes of emergency rice imports. Three international tenders have also been floated during the last fortnight for importing 1.5 lakh tonnes more. A day after the finance minister placed 2017-18 fiscal year's budget in parliament, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury said rice prices went up due to sudden floods in the haor areas and that prices would come down quickly as the government took steps to import rice. However, the government's rather late move to stabilise the rice market would yield no immediate results with local millers reluctant to sell to the food department for a non-lucrative price offered by the government. The government's rice imports are unlikely to reach ports before the end of July.   To make matters worse, market sources told The Daily Star that prices of rice in the international market have been rising for the last two weeks. Sources at the food ministry and the office of the Director General of Food said the government floated three international tenders in quick succession in May and in the first week of June seeking to buy 1 lakh tonnes of parboiled (Shiddo) and another 50,000 tonnes of white rice (Atap). Dubai-based Sukhbir Agro Energy quoted the lowest price, $427.85 a tonne, for 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice (first tender) and Singapore-based Agrocorp International quoted the lowest price, $406.48 a tonne, for 50,000 tonnes of white rice (second tender).  The bids for the third tender, for 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice, are scheduled to be opened on June 11, food ministry sources said. As it stands now with 25 percent levies on imported rice, the government would have to pay Tk 44 for each kg of imported rice, Tk 10 more than what it offers farmers and millers. Though the government had plans of buying 13 lakh tonnes of rice from the domestic market this boro season, its offer of Tk 34 a kg fell far short of farmers' and traders' desires. They are now selling at Tk 42-44 a kg in the domestic market. A month has gone by since official boro procurement began and the government could only sign contracts with millers for 1.6 lakh tonnes of rice. There is no guarantee that the government would actually get that 1.6 lakh tonne of rice. Food Minister Quamrul Islam acknowledged in parliament on Monday that the government's rice stock was low. He said the process to import six lakh tonnes of rice was underway. Meanwhile, a recent report of the Vietnam Economic Times stated that Vietnam would sell up to 10 lakh tonnes of rice to Bangladesh every year until 2022, under an extended MoU first signed in 2011. Bangladesh did not need to import rice since 2011-12 financial year but after renewing the MoU, it immediately wanted to purchase 2.5 to 3 lakh tonnes of rice and a total of 5 lakh tonnes of rice by the end of 2017, according to the Vietnam News Agency. The government's Food Planning and Monitoring Unit's (FPMU) May 31 report stated that rice prices went up in the international market over the last fortnight. It recorded that prices of Indian, Thai and Vietnamese rice increased up to 8 percent. Market sources said the Philippines was in the international market to buy rice along with flood-ravaged Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which caused the price hike.
  • A jump in subsidy to contain rice price

  • A jump in subsidy to contain rice price
    Subsidies on food will rise to 20.10% year-on-year to Tk1,215cr due to a hike in staple prices though the international market rates remain unchanged
     
    SYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN

    For the agricultural sector, the subsidy was cut by Tk3,000cr to Tk9,000cr in the revised budgetary outlay as fertiliser prices fell in the international market

    As the government will hike subsidy expenditure from Tk23,830cr in this year to Tk28,045cr in the next fiscal year, subsidy spending is likely to increase by 17.69% due to the impending food shortage and supply of rice at low prices to the poor, according to the Finance Ministry. Around Tk4,545cr has been allocated for food subsidy. In the original budget for the current fiscal year, the allocation was Tk2,820cr, which was revised upwards to Tk3,721cr to accommodate a programme introduced last year to sell rice at Tk10 a kilogram to the poor. Fuel and power dominated the state’s subsidy policy in the last some years. Now, food and agriculture will get priority as the country is likely to see a food shortage because of the recent floods, a Finance Ministry official said. For the agricultural sector, the subsidy was cut by Tk3,000cr to Tk9,000cr in the revised budgetary outlay as fertiliser prices fell in the international market. Food related subsidies will rise to 20.10 % year-on-year to Tk1,215cr owing to an increase in  staple prices despite the rates remaining unchanged in the international market. The subsides will be required as the government plans to sell rice and wheat at lower prices in the upcoming fiscal year, as it is doing in the current one. Each kg rice and wheat sells under the government’s Open Market Sale programme at Tk15 and Tk17 respectively, while the government’s latest procurement price for rice is Tk 32 a kg. Exports and jute subsidies will remain the same as the current year’s amounts of Tk4,000cr and Tk500cr respectively. As Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation made lofty profits for several years as fuel prices in the international market were comparatively lower, no subsidies have been given to fuel sector. The state-owned organisation received a total of Tk42,000cr in subsidies in the last eight years. Petrobangla will likely get Tk2,500cr as cash credit to purchase gas from international oil companies (IOCs). The national oil company will use the credit to partially pay Tk5,500cr  of its dues to the National Board of Revenue. Petrobangla buys gas from the IOCs at Tk292 per 1,000 cubic metres, which include their income tax, but it sells the same volume of gas at Tk176, including taxes. Hence, the company pays a subsidy of Tk126 for every 1,000 cubic metres of gas. Also, the government last year started waiving taxes on gas at the time of import or purchase including 15% VAT. The power sector will get a subsidy of Tk5,500cr, which is the same as allocated in the FY2016-17. Before the budget announcement, Finance Minister AMA Muhith made his yearly rhetoric that the total subsidy would drop to a minimum level, but his assumption failed in the last two fiscal years as the subsidy outlay saw a rise.
  • SL Agritech signs Bangladesh trial planting deal for hybrid rice

  • HYBRID RICE producer SL Agritech Corp. has signed a memorandum of agreement with Bangladesh’s EnP Solutions Ltd for trial production there of one of its seed varieties.

     
     
    SL Agritech Corp is the largest hybrid rice seed producer.
     
    EnP Solutions will initially import some 20 to 50 tons of SL-18 hybrid rice for a pilot test.
    “We’re happy to collaborate with them. And we’re hoping to target bigger seed production in Bangladesh,” said Henry Lim Bon Liong in a briefing in Makati City on Wednesday following the signing of the deal. In two to three years, Mr. Lim Bon Liong is hoping to expand the area of seed production to “hundreds of hectares.” “By that time we can produce 1,600 MT of seed; two tons of seed per hectare,” he said. “This is our first collaboration. We’re still feeling each other out. But we’re looking for a long business-relationship,” he added. EnP Solutions mainly provides services for the oil and gas industry in Bangladesh. This will be the first time the firm will be venturing into agriculture, according to EnP Solutions Chairman Syed Mahmudul Huq. “We are almost self sufficient in food but Bangladesh like Philippines, is subject to natural calamities and we have drought or floods. We will lose our standing crop and look for imports,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “Nevertheless, government and the private sector in the eventual long run have to go forth for expansion in agriculture,” he added. For his part, Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Philippines Asad Alam Siam welcomed the collaboration, saying this move is seen to help Bangladesh face the challenge of feeding its rapidly expanding population. “We are a small country with a big population. Our farmland is shrinking while our population is [increasing]... This technology, in terms of hybrid rice, that the Bangladeshi companies take to the Philippines, will increase our productivity... and will help us ensure food security,” he said. SL Agritech currently exports rice seed to the United States and the Middle East. -- Janina C. Lim
  • Budget for Next Fiscal Year: Bigger subsidy on food likely

  • Govt to go for rice import, expand OMS to ease pressure amid huge crop loss

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    The government is getting ready to further increase its fiscal outlay on food dole in the 2017-18 fiscal year. On June 1, the new budget will show food subsidies going up to Tk 4,500 crore from Tk 2,821 crore of initial allocations for 2016-17, now being revised to Tk 3,721 crore.   Sources in the finance ministry told The Daily Star that the government was keeping aside a hefty sum to pay for the imports of six to eight lakh tonnes of rice as well. The government intends to procure the rice from international market to recoup domestic production loss caused by devastating flash floods in the haors of seven districts and fungi attacks in 19 districts.  Even though it would be taxing for the state coffer to pay for all these, yet the government has decided not to backtrack on newer initiatives of food charities on an election year, sources told The Daily Star.
     
    The next general elections would be at the end of 2018 calendar year.  The government introduced a programme last year to distribute rice among the poor at Tk 10 a kg, which is now creating pressure on subsidies, a food ministry official said. Amidst the high rice prices and substantial crop loss, the government is planning to increase in 2017-18 the number of beneficiaries of Tk 10 per kg rice and would allocate 8.5 lakh tonnes of rice, one lakh tonne more than the revised allocation for 2016-17. Rice distribution through Open Market Sales (OMS) would also be increased, which would contribute to the increase in food subsidies, sources said. The government wants, as a preliminary budget projections show, to increase the total disbursement to 27.40 lakh tonnes of rice and wheat in 2017-18, about a four-lakh tonne rise from the outgoing fiscal year's revised allocation of 23.50 lakh tonnes. A constant rise in rice prices, at home and abroad, necessitated the enhanced food subsidy since the government was selling rice for Tk 10 a kg to the poor but it has to buy the rice at a much higher price. In the new budget, the government is, however, lowering its domestic rice procurement target to 16 lakh tonnes for 2017-18 fiscal year. It had procured 18.50 lakh tonnes in 2016-17. This development comes at a time when the government-offered Tk 34 a kg fell much short of current market price and millers and traders were declining to sell rice to public granaries. Following the crop loss, the government for the first time in five years decided to buy rice from the international market.  After about 10 lakh tonnes of boro lost to floods and more losses due to fungi attack (rice blast), the government floated first two of a series of international import tenders on May 8 and 14, seeking to buy one lakh tonnes of rice.  The government took the import decision when the prices of the staple showed an upward trend with allegations that a section of millers and middlemen were deliberately supplying the market less rice to put pressure on the government to lift the 25 percent import duty. Public granaries now have about 2.4 lakh tonnes of rice and 3.15 lakh tonnes of wheat, which is a six year low. The granaries have the capacity to hold 20 lakh tonnes.
  • Rice reserves must be upped

  • The price of coarse rice has soared to 48 taka per kg. Over the last one month, the price of rice has gone up by 11 per cent, and has doubled in a matter of one year. A report in Prothom Alo on Sunday says, the price of coarse rice in Bangladesh is the highest in the world. This threatens the food security of nearly 20 million families.
     
    Why has the price of rice increased so much? The reasons have been identified as faults in planning and management, lack of farsightedness, politics with food and so on. Reality has been blocked out by political promises of providing the public with rice at just 10 taka per kg and by projecting the country as self-sufficient in food. Rice was imported when there was no need for imports. The price of rice had fallen so low and has impacted the farmers so badly, that they were hesitant to grow rice the next season. The floods in the marshy haor districts this year have also been responsible for the steep rice prices. The hard fact is that there is only 231 thousand tonnes of rice in government reserve. This is the lowest food reserve of the country in 10 years. Experts contend that the reserves must be at least 600 tonnes. If the reserves fall below this, the traders take advantage of the situation and hike prices. Basically, that is what has happened this time. The government is unable to procure food grain because no farmers will want to sell rice to the government at the fixed rate of 34 taka per kg, when the market rate is 48 taka. Even worse, the government has no idea of how much rice there is in the market.  Yet it is the responsibility of the food ministry to constantly monitor the market and keep account. Such irresponsibility must be punished as it has led to the loss of control on the market. If this abnormal rise in rice prices has to be brought under control and if rice is to be affordable for the public, the government must speedily replenish the reserves. Rice must be imported. And stern measures must be taken to monitor possible hoarders and prevent an artificial crisis.
  • Bangladesh gets lowest rice import tender

  • Bangladesh received a lowest offer of $406.48 a tonne CIF liner out from Singapore-based Agrocorp International in a tender that opened on Sunday to import 50,000 tonnes of white rice, officials at the state grains buyer said.

     

    Five traders competed for the tender issued by the Directorate General of Food at a time when local rice prices have reached record highs and state reserves are at 10-year lows.

    Other offers in a tonne CIF liner out were: LDC $413.13, Olam $413.90, Phoenix $421.00 and Desh Trading $446.70, the officials said.

    One trader said the origin of the lowest offer was not known but was likely to be from Vietnam.

    A Bangldesh delegation was in Vietnam last week to finalise imports of the staple grain in a government-to-government deal, Food Ministry officials said.

    Vietnamese rice prices this week hit their highest in over a year on expectations of strong demand from top importing countries such as Bangladesh and the Philippines.

    The state grains buyer earlier this month said it would ship in 600,000 tonnes of rice, initially issuing two tenders for a total of 100,000 tonnes of rice, its first such tenders since 2011.

    In its first tender that opened last week, it received a lowest offer of $427.85 a tonne CIF liner out from Dubai-based Sukhbir Agro Energy to import 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice.

  • Bangladesh rice prices break world record

  •  

    Coarse rice prices

    Bangladeshis buy the poorest quality of rice at the highest prices in the world.

    According to the government, a kilogramme of a coarse variety of rice is being sold at Tk 48, setting a new record in the country's economy. Another South Asia nation, Pakistan, stood second on the chart, but its nationals buy the same variety of rice at Tk 10 less than in Bangladesh. Analysing information from three agencies, it has been observed that rice prices have consistently been rising for the last one year. According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), in the past month, the price of rice has increased by 11 per cent and prices have doubled in the past one year. Economists say this is due to wrong policies and not taking proper steps in this regard. Asked about the rise in rice prices, food minister Quamrul Islam did not make any specific comment on it. "I've just come from Vietnam after signing an agreement for rice procurement. I am unable to comment on the price of rice in Bangladesh right now. International rates of rice According to a daily report published by the food ministry, Vietnam is now selling rice at the cheapest rates in the world. The price of a kilogramme of rice is Tk 33. 62 there. In neighbouring India, the price of a kilogramme of rice is Tk 34, Tk 37.81 in Thailand, and Tk 38. 54 in Pakistan. Outside this region, the world's largest rice producing countries -- China, Indonesia, and the United States -- do not export rice to international markets. Rather, they import rice. In the international rice market, rice is being sold at the highest price in Bangladesh. But, it is also true that rice prices are on the rise internationally as well. According to 'Agri Market', a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, in the past week, rice prices have risen in all countries except Vietnam. Thailand has increased rice prices by 5.77 per cent, while India has raised rice prices by 1.4 per cent, and Pakistan by 2 per cent. According to the FAO's April report, world rice production will decline by 6 million tonnes this year compared to last year. As much as 173.3 million tonnes of rice was produced in 2015-116 fiscal. It is expected to go down 2 million tonnes this year. Rice prices break all record International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said rice prices rose to Tk 38 per kg in October, 2016 in Bangladesh. During the last caretaker government regime in 2008, a kilogramme of rice price shot up to Tk 36 per kg. Then, the rice prices started falling after bumper production of rice in 2009 that brought the rice price down to Tk 26 per kg in 2012. The rice prices continued to increase again after the Bangladesh Awami League came to power for the consecutive second term in 2014. Although keeping the rice price within the reach was one of the main election promises of the AL in 2014, the rice price rose to Tk 30 per kg and it went up to Tk 33 in 2015. *This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla print edition, has been rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam.
  • Bangladesh to speed up rice imports in wake of flooding

  • Bangladesh will speed up plans to import rice that it brought in to build reserves and rein in local prices after flash floods hit domestic output, government officials said on Thursday. As part of that, a Bangladeshi delegation is now in Vietnam to finalize imports of the staple grain in a government-to-government deal, said a procurement official, declining to be identified as he was not authorized to speak with media. He did not give further details on the transaction. Ramped up demand from Bangladesh, the world's fourth-biggest rice producer, could underpin prices in major exporters Vietnam, Thailand and India. "We are making frantic efforts to boost state reserves and bring down prices of rice," said the procurement official. Local rice prices have reached record highs and state reserves are at six-year lows in the wake of flooding in April that wiped out around 700,000 tonnes of output. The state grains buyer earlier this month said it would ship in 600,000 tonnes of rice after the flooding, initially issuing two tenders for a total of 100,000 tonnes of rice, its first such tenders since 2011. Meanwhile, the procurement official said the government had decided not to withdraw duty on private rice imports, looking to protect farmers. Bangladesh produces around 34 million tonnes of rice annually but uses almost all its production to feed its population of 160 million. It often requires imports, however, to cope with shortages caused by natural calamities like floods and droughts.
  • Vietnam to Sell Bangladesh 1 Million Tonnes of Rice Annually

  • Hanoi. Vietnam will sell 1 million tonnes of various types of rice to Bangladesh annually between 2017-2022 as part of a memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries on Tuesday (23/05), Vietnam's trade ministry said. Bangladesh, facing a rice shortage due to natural disasters and crop failures, wants to buy around 250,000 to 300,000 tonnes of Vietnam's 5-percent white rice immediately and plans to increase rice imports from Vietnam to 500,000 tonnes by end-2017, the trade ministry said in a statement.
  • Export Summary-Bangladesh seeks white rice; Iraq buys Australian wheat

  • May 15 (Reuters) - Snapshot of the global export markets for grains, oilseeds and edible oils as reported by government and private sources as of end of business on Monday: RICE TENDER: Bangladesh's state grains buyer issued an international tender on Monday to import 50,000 tonnes of white rice, officials said, its second tender in a week to build reserves and control prices of the staple. The deadline for offers is May 28 and the rice is to be shipped in 40 days after the deal is signed, a senior official at the state grains buyer said. WHEAT PURCHASE: Iraq's state grains board has purchased about 50,000 tonnes of wheat to be sourced from Australia in a tender which closed last week, European traders said on Monday. PENDING TENDERS: RICE TENDER: Iraq's state grains buyer is seeking to purchase about 100,000 tonnes of rice to be sourced from the United States, European traders said. Offers are to be submitted on May 15 and must remain valid until May 21, they said. RICE TENDER: South Korea's Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp issued an international tender to purchase around 65,000 tonnes of rice, European traders said. The tender registration deadline is May 15, they said. WHEAT AND BARLEY TENDER: Jordan's state grain buyer issued new international tenders to purchase 100,000 tonnes of hard milling wheat and 100,000 tonnes of animal feed barley both to be sourced from optional origins, European traders said. Deadline for the wheat tender is May 16 and deadline for the barley tender is May 17, they said. WHEAT TENDER UPDATE: Japan's Ministry of Agriculture said it received no offers for feed-quality wheat or barley in a simultaneous buy and sell (SBS) auction that closed late on May 10. The ministry had sought 120,000 tonnes of feed wheat and 200,000 tonnes of feed barley to be loaded by August 31 and arrive in Japanby October 31 in the tender that is usually conducted weekly. It is seeking the same amounts for each grain to be loaded and shipped during the same period in a similar tender that will be held on May 17. CORN TENDER: Turkey's state grain agency TMO issued international tenders to purchase and import up to 180,000 tonnes of animal feed corn, European traders said on. The tenders close on May 18. The TMO will hold 15 separate tenders each for 12,000 tonnes of corn, with Russia not named as an accepted origin, traders said. RICE TENDER: Mauritius' state purchasing agency issued an international tender to buy up to 6,000 tonnes of long grain white rice sourced from optional origins, European traders said. Tender deadline is May 19, traders said. RICE TENDER: Bangladesh's state grains buyer issued an international tender to import 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice, state grains officials said, its first such tender in many years. The deadline for offers is May 21 and the rice is to be shipped in 40 days after signing the deal, a senior official at the state grains buyer said. The head of the state grain buyer said the agency will import 600,000 tonnes of rice in an effort to replenish reserves and rein in prices of the staple. (Compiled by Michael Hirtzer)
  • Minister claims rise in rice prices is artificial

  • 'Some dishonest traders and mill owners are involved in the destablisation of the market'

    Rice Minister Qamrul Islam has claimed that certain quarters are hatching conspiracy to increase rice prices in the aftermath of crop losses in different regions due to flood and storms. “An intriguing quarter is plotting to create unstable situation in the country by fabricating rice crisis. Some dishonest traders and mill owners are involved in the destablisation of the market,” the minister said at a views exchange meeting with field officials of the Directorate General of Rice (DGF) on Tuesday. The meeting was held at the conference from of the Deputy Commissioner’s Office. “But the plotters will not succeed as the government is well prepared to tackle such situation with formidable public rice storage,” he added. Qamrul admitted that it would take time for the government to rein in the recent uptrend of rice prices. He mentioned that the national rice output from the ongoing Boro season (December-May) is likely to stand at about 1.80 crore tonnes against the target of 1.91 crore tonnes because of crop losses in the storms.
    Also Read- Food minister: Price of coarse variety rice will not further increase
    However, the officials of the Department of Agricultural Extension told the Dhaka Tribune, “Around 300,000 hectares of Boro field has destroyed in the haor due to the flash flood which counts around 12 lakh tons of rice.” In addition, a vast stretches of Boro field has damaged by the attacks of blast, which also reduces the total production of paddy in the current Boro season. Agricultural economist Quazi Shahabuddin believes that the country will see around 20 lakh tons of Boro rice loss in this season, while the last years production was 1.87 crore tons. According to the Food Ministry, the government’s rice reserve came down to 262,000 tons on May 7. In May last year this reserve was about 678,000 tons. According to the food ministry’s document, the government needs at least 483,000 tons of rice by June 30 to meet the demand of different social safety net programmes including vulnerable group feeding (VGF) and Open Market Sale (OMS), especially in the Haor basins where food shortage is threatening to become acute. To tackle the situation, the government has already decided to import a total of 600,000 tons of rice to make the reserve sufficient. Primarily, it has put out tender to procure 100,000 tons of rice, something it has not done in the last six years. Asked about the allegation of corruption in wheat procurement, the rice minister admitted that the government had failed to control those middlemen who were misusing the farmers’ cards.
  • Bangladesh floods cut potential 700,000 T from rice harvest

  • The fields hit by the floods were about to be harvested. Flooding also damaged other crops and fisheries in the country's northeast, affecting millions of people. DHAKA, May 6 (Reuters) - Flash floods have washed away crops in northeastern Bangladesh that would have yielded nearly 700,000 tonnes of rice, according to estimates from the agriculture ministry. The fields hit by the floods were about to be harvested, a major blow to the south Asian country, where local rice prices have hit an all-time high and reserves of the staple grain have dipped to a six-year low. The flooding triggered by heavy pre-monsoon rains also damaged other crops and fisheries in the marshy areas in the country's northeastern region, affecting millions of people. The government has allocated 100 million taka ($1.2 million) in emergency aid for people in the flood-hit areas. "This is a big loss for the farmers," said Manzurul Hannan, director general of the Department of Agriculture Extension. Besides the emergency aid, a farm rehabilitation plan is being worked out to provide free seed and fertilizer for the affected farmers for the next crop season, Hannan said. "But we don't think this will have much impact on the overall rice production (for this year)," he told Reuters. Bangladesh aims to produce more than 34 million tonnes in the current crop year, up from nearly 33.5 million tonnes in the previous year. The world's fourth-biggest producer of rice consumes almost all of its own production, but often needs imports to cope with shortages caused by natural disasters such as floods or drought. State rice reserves at government warehouses have fallen to around 350,000 tonnes, the lowest in six years. ($1 = 81.4400 taka) (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Tom Hogue)
  • Govt to cut rice import duty

  • Govt to cut rice import duty

    The New Nation (Bangladesh) Dhaka, May 3 -- In the backdrop of huge damage of boro paddy due to flash flood in the north-east haor regions, the government is set to slash import duty on rice, sources said. The Directorate of Food has recently sent a proposal to the Food Ministry recommending the duty cut by 14 percent. According to the proposal, the Department apprehended losses of six lakh tonnes of Boro rice, which was unpredictable. It suggested bringing down the import duty to 10 per cent from the existing 28 per cent. According to the Food Ministry official, the proposal has already been sent to the Commerce Ministry and it would go to the NBR through the Ministry for maintaining the formalities. 'We have sent a proposal to the Food Ministry for cutting rice import duty as the rice price has increased in the local market because of a "real" and "psychological" impact of flash flood on the market,' said Md Badrul Hasan, Director General of the Food Directorate. The government imposed import duty on rice in May 2015 for the protection of local farmers as the prices of the item went down below the production cost due to import of lower-priced rice,' he said. Although losses of six lakh tonnes of rice is being apprehended, there will be no shortage of rice, he said. 'But it has a psychological impact which might push up the price of the item in the local market.' It has not yet been decided whether the public or the private sector would import the rice. 'If we can import, the psychological impact could be managed and the prices of rice will remain stable,' he said. Badrul Hasan, however, said, generally the prices of rice start to decrease in the market from mid April every year as the boro rice produced in haor region arrives in the market. But this year the price of rice increased in mid April as the flash flood damaged crops in haor areas, he added. According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh data, the price of coarse variety of rice in last one year increased by 31.82 per cent to Tk 45 a kg from Tk 34 a kg. The coarse variety of rice was selling at Tk 43-45 in the city markets on Tuesday. The price of BR-28 rice and Miniket rice continued to increase and coarse variety of Miniket rice was retailing at Tk 52-54 a kg, while its fine variety was selling at Tk 55-57 a kg in the city markets. BR-28 rice was retailing at Tk 48-52 a kg.  
  • In threat to food security, Bangladesh moves to burn grain for fuel

  • Farmers husk harvested rice crop at Zalkuri, 15 km of Dhaka in this April 27, 2008 file photo. Reuters Energy ministry officials said in a gazette notification early this year that the country will begin using maize, broken rice grains and molasses to produce ethanol to mix with petrol fuel at a 5 percent ratio.
    But in a heavily populated country that produces relatively little in the way of climate-changing emissions and that already relies on imports of maize and other grains, the result could be rising food prices, especially for the poor, economists, business leaders and environmental experts warned. Moshiur Rahman, who convenes the Bangladesh Poultry Industries Coordination Committee, called the move to begin using grain for fuel “suicidal”. Much of Bangaldesh’s maize is used to feed animals, including chickens. But the country grows only half of the maize it needs, importing the rest from the United States and Brazil, he said, which means rising demand could mean rising prices. “Maize prices will go up if it is used for ethanol production. The price of eggs and chicken will go beyond the reach of common people,” Rahman warned. He said growing concerns about food security have led other countries – including China – to stop giving permission for new biofuel projects. Food to fuel According to a study by Bangladesh’s energy ministry, the country could produce 18 million liters of ethanol a year, or about 75,000 liters each working day. That would require 60,000 tonnes of broken rice each year – about 3.5 percent of the country’s total production. Alternately the county could produce the ethanol with 62,000 tonnes of maize (2.8 percent of production) or 97,000 tonnes of molasses (nearly all of the country’s production). The study warned that if the government scales up ethanol production beyond those levels, it will raise demand for grain to the point that it could hurt food security. But junior energy minister Nasrul Hamid told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone that Bangladesh needs to go for greener and more varied fuels in the future, like other nations. “So, we are exploring the possibility of using bio-ethanol with other fuels. You can’t remain out from the global trend of energy use,” he said. He confirmed the ministry plans to give permission for ethanol production, and then would judge from early experience whether to scale up the experiment. “Yes, we are going to give permission for bio-fuel soon. Let’s see what happens first. Its impact on food security will be considered then,” Hamid said. But others warn that Bangladesh has decided to burn food grains to produce ethanol without taking into consideration the food security of its 160 million people. That is a particular worry in a low-lying country that faces severe climate change threats, including loss of crops and crop land to worsening salt-water intrusion, droughts, floods, storms, sea level rise and erosion. Already many people face daily hunger and can manage meals only once or twice a day, experts say. Last year, Bangladesh ranked in the top 25 percent of the world’s most hungry countries, according to the Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research Institute. Bangladesh today produces about 1.8 million tonnes of broken rice, about 100,000 tonnes of molasses and less than half the 6 million tonnes of maize it needs each year, according to the country’s Energy Ministry. Besides being used as livestock food, maize is eaten by poorer people, mixed with flour as a cereal or made into biscuits. Lower-income people also eat broken rice for breakfast and make it into cakes. But prices for the grains are rising. A kilogram of coarse rice is now being sold at 42 taka (50 cents) in Dhaka, up 25 percent in price from a year ago, according to the government Trading Corporation of Bangladesh. Rising food prices are a major concern, with a growing portion of people’s earnings now being spent on food. The country’s food inflation rate in February was 6.8 percent, up from a record low of 3.8 percent a year ago. About 13 percent of Bangladesh’s people fall below the national poverty line of $2 per day, according to World Bank data. The country produces about enough rice to meet demand but imported 4.5 million tonnes of wheat last year to meet demand for that grain, according to the country’s food ministry. Wrong-headed decision? Despite rising demand for food, Khan Md Aftabuddin, managing director of Sunipun Organics Ltd. – the company that first applied for government permission for ethanol production – said turning grain into fuel would not pose any threat to food security for Bangladesh. He said the byproducts of ethanol production could be used as poultry or fish food, and that more maize could be grown on delta islands if demand for it rises. “If needed, we will produce maize in char lands of the country as raw material for our plant,” Aftabuddin said. Bangladesh needs to turn to renewable energy to keep its environment clean, he said. But Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah, secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, said creating fuel using maize – which is increasingly being imported to make up for rice and wheat shortfalls – doesn’t seem to make sense. “I do not see any valid reason for using maize and broken rice for ethanol production,” he said. M. Asaduzzaman, a fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies and a member of the country’s climate change negotiations team, said he also disagreed with the move toward producing ethanol from grain. “We have tremendous difficulties in livestock nutrition. If maize is now used to produce ethanol, the cost of livestock production will go further up causing further animal protein deficiency,” said Asaduzzaman, also a former vice chairman of the International Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change. “This is a wrong-headed decision,” he said. Bangladesh’s per capita carbon emissions are tiny compared to those of more developed countries, and should not be as great a concern as protecting food security, he said. “When we can’t meet basic nutritional need, we don’t need to go for clean energy,” he said. Khondaker Golam Moazzem, a research director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, a Dhaka-based think tank, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that he is concerned that ethanol production, once started, could be scaled up in the future, particularly if oil prices eventually rise. That could lead to more demand for maize and for land to grow it. “Then, staple food production will be hampered since Bangladesh suffers from acute farmland scarcity,” he warned.
  • No let-up in rice price hike despite record Aman output

  • No let-up in rice price hike despite record Aman output

     
    Rice prices remain exorbitant despite record Aman output
    Rice traders await customers at a market in Dhaka city. - File photo
    Yasir Wardad
    Production of Aman, the second biggest cereal crop of the country, hit an all-time high in the current fiscal year, although prices of all types of major staples remain exorbitant at retail level.
     
    Officials concerned told the FE that Aman output has surged due to a rise in per hectare yield for an increase in cultivation of high-yielding rice varieties by the farmers and favourable weather condition. According to primary estimates made by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) on Thursday, Aman output hit an all-time high of over 13.656 million tonnes in the current fiscal year (FY'17) which was 13.48 million tonnes in the FY'16.Rice prices remain exorbitant despite record Aman output Per hectare yield increased to over 2.44 tonnes in the FY'17 from 2.41 tonnes in the FY'16 which pushed up overall production, a BBS official told the FE. Farmers transplanted rain-fed Aman paddy on 5.583 million hectares of land in the FY'17 which was 5.59 million hectares a year ago, he said. Aman accounts for 38 per cent of annual rice production, followed by Boro 55 per cent and Aus 7.0 per cent, according to the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA). With a 1.30 per cent rise in Aman production in the FY'17 than that of the FY'16, the total rice output this year stands at 15.79 million tonnes including 2.134 million tonnes of Aus, the official said. Although Aus output declined by 7.0 per cent in the FY'17, overall production in the two seasons is 0.57 per cent higher than that of last year, BBS data showed. However, the MoA set a production target of 2.475 million tonnes of rice during the Aus season, 13.5 million tonnes in Aman and 1.91 million tonnes during the Boro season. The target for total rice production has been fixed at 35.07 million tonnes this fiscal year while output was 34.57 million tonnes in the FY'16. Despite having a record production in the Aman season, prices of the staple had shown a rising trend even in its harvesting period that ended in January last. According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) and Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM) data, rice prices increased up to 42 per cent in the country in last six months. Coarse rice Swarna was selling at Tk 37-Tk 43, medium quality Brridhan-28 at Tk 44-Tk 48, finer rice Miniket at Tk 50-Tk 62 a kg in the country for last one and a half weeks, TCB and DAM data showed. Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Secretary Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan said day-labourers in Dhaka city now have to pay additional Tk 32-Tk 35 a day for rice which is above 8 per cent of their daily incomes. "A nexus of big importers and millers might have taken a role in rice price hike. We observe that the prices of rice and the volume of import have increased significantly in last two months." Importers are now making profits by bringing in coarse and medium varieties of rice even after paying 25 per cent customs duty, he said. The government should gear up its monitoring to prevent hoarding which causes artificial shortage, he commented. However, the food ministry data showed that private importers have so far brought a total of 77,000 tonnes of rice in the current financial year of which 36,000 tonnes were imported in last one month. The government has now a stock of only 0.48 million tonnes of rice which was 0.878 million tonnes in the corresponding period last year. Bangladesh produced over 34.57 million tonnes of rice in the FY'16 against a demand for 31.0 million tonnes, according to BBS and Directorate General of Food (DGoF).
  • Bangladesh Triples Rice Production with Help of Nuclear Science: Conference on Technical Cooperation

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    (Video: S. Slavchev/IAEA)
    Mymensingh, Bangladesh — New varieties of rice made using nuclear techniques have helped Bangladesh increase its rice production three-fold in the last few decades. This in turn has enabled the country to stay one step ahead of its rapid population growth. Today there is a secure and steady supply of rice in Bangladesh, and the country is shifting from being an importer to an exporter of rice. Achieve food security and improved nutrition will be a key theme at the IAEA Technical Cooperation Conference from 30 May to 1 June in Vienna. “I have more rice for my family, and I now earn almost double with the rice and mustard seed I grow compared to before,” said Suruj Ali, a farmer from Gerapacha village just north of Mymensingh near the border of Bangladesh and India, who grows a new type of rice plant called Binadhan-7. “I also save money because I don’t have to spray as much for insects.”
    Irradiating seeds has proven to be a ready to use and flexible way to develop better crops”
    Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh
    Binadhan-7 is one of several rice varieties developed by the scientists at the Bangladesh Institute for Nuclear Agriculture (BINA), with the support of the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It was developed through a process using radiation called plant mutation breeding (see Plant mutation breeding), and has since become a popular rice variety in the northern part of the country where it has helped farmers and workers stabilize their income and find year-long employment. Globally more than 3 000 plant varieties have been developed and released using plant mutation breeding techniques. These mutant varieties will continue to play a key role in meeting global food demands as the world's population rapidly grows and environmental conditions become more challenging. They can also help in averting famine, a major global problem recently highlighted by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “Many scientists around the world turn to plant mutation breeding because it allows them to harness a natural process toward more quickly homing in on and cultivating desirable characteristics in plants,” said Ljupcho Jankuloski, Acting Head of the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. “This method saves time and money for researchers, while resulting in the kinds of plants farmers need to cost-effectively keep food on the table and money in their pockets. For many farmers, these plant varieties are a game changer.”
    Helping farmers in northern Bangladesh What sets Binadhan-7 apart from local rice varieties is its shorter growing time and ability to produce more rice. Local varieties used in the north produce around 2 tonnes of husked rice per hectare and take about 150 days to mature for harvest. Binadhan-7 produces around 3.5 to 4.5 tonnes per hectare and takes around 115 days to be ready for harvest. “Before Binadhan-7, I used to only be able to grow two crops and would have several months each year without anything, but with Binadhan-7, I can now grow three crops and earn money all year long,” Ali said. He, along with his family of five, lives off 3 acres of land where he grows rice and mustard seed.  “I’ve used that extra money to build two new extensions for my house. I hope I can earn enough to send my kids abroad someday.” Since its first release in 2007, Binadhan-7 has helped to improve the livelihoods of more than 20% of the people living in the northern region, according to BINA. No meal is complete without rice New rice varieties like Binadhan-7 help to address the demand for this staple food in Bangladesh. Many of these varieties have been developed to produce more rice when compared to local varieties, which means more food to eat and sell. “For most Bangladeshi people, a meal is not a meal if it does not include rice. With a projected population of 195 million by 2030, this puts immense pressure on rice production,” said Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah, Secretary of the country’s Ministry of Agriculture. More than 36 million tonnes of rice are produced and consumed in Bangladesh each year, making it the fourth largest rice producer and consumer in the world. The country now regularly exports rice in the region. “We have to adapt all technologies to increase production to ensure food and nutritional security,” Moinuddin Abdullah said. “That’s why we are very keen to have agriculture research through which we get new plant varieties.”
    A cornucopia of new crops Thirteen new rice varieties have been developed by BINA, in part through the IAEA and its techincal cooperation programme, using plant mutation breeding since the 1970s. These are among the more than 40 new crop plant varieties developed in the country using this technique. Others include lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, mustard seed, sesame seed, soybean, jute, tomato and wheat. “Irradiating seeds has proven to be a ready to use and flexible way to develop better crops. It’s a non-hazardous and low-cost technology that has helped us to grow more food,” said Moinuddin Abdullah. These new varieties help Bangladeshi farmers deal with enduring problems such as water shortages, drought, salty soil and soil degradation, which make it difficult for crops to survive and can turn soil into unusable farmland. The situation is only worsening as climate change brings more extreme weather. “As plant mutation breeding has proven to be full of potential and a very efficient tool for plant improvement, BINA is well-positioned to develop plant varieties that can help ensure food security amidst the global changing climate,” said Mohammad Shamsher Ali, Director General of BINA. For more information about the International Conference on the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme: Sixty Years and Beyond – Contributing to Development, click here.

    THE SCIENCE

    Plant mutation breeding

     
     
    Plant mutation breeding is the process of exposing plant seeds, cuttings or a shredded plant leaf to radiation, such as gamma rays, and then planting the seed or cultivating the irradiated material in a sterile rooting medium, which generates a plantlet. The individual plants are then multiplied and examined for their traits. Molecular marker-assisted breeding, often referred to as marker-assisted selection, is used to accelerate the selection of plants with desired traits, carried by genes of interest. Plant mutation breeding does not involve gene modification, but rather uses a plant’s own genetic resources and mimics the natural process of spontaneous mutation, the motor of evolution. By using radiation, scientists can significantly shorten the time it takes to breed new and improved plant varieties.
  • ‘Seawater dents Bangladesh’s rice production’

  • bangldesh irrigationSeawater dents Bangladesh’s rice production. Photo: UNB
      Urgent action is needed to prevent salt intrusion causing severe damage to rice production and loss of drinking water in Bangladesh and Vietnam, according to reports by the World Bank and the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO). The reports say sea level rise, combined with the floods and waterlogging caused by cyclones and typhoons, is threatening large areas of land that is currently highly productive. Unless counter measures are taken to stop the levels of salt rising and to develop more salt-resistant strains of rice, then both nations will increasingly struggle to feed their rising populations, say the World Bank and the NIBIO. Their reports also say there will be mass migration away from the affected areas, according to a message received in Dhaka from London. Udaya Sekhar Nagothu, international coordinator for the ClimaViet project, says: “Saline levels in soil and irrigation waters in coastal areas are steadily increasing, it is vital that something is done about it before the situation gets out of hand.” Bangladesh and Vietnam are already being affected by sea level rise, and NIBIO is working with local governments in the Vietnamese delta regions to try to reduce the impacts, according to Climate News Network. One of the most helpful solutions would be to develop more salt-resistant varieties of rice, but it is expensive to produce the required quantities of seed, and money is short. According to the World Bank, salinity issues in Bangladesh will most probably lead to significant shortages of drinking water and irrigation by 2050. It is also estimated that increased soil salinity, both in coastal and inland areas, may result in yields from rice production declining by 15.6 per cent in the next 30 years, significantly reducing the income of the affected farmers. In addition to soil salinity, Vietnam also experiences strong storm surges, rising temperatures and variability in the seasonality of rainfall, which add to the stress on crops and soils. “Due to their extensive coastline and many river deltas, countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam are hotspots for climate change impacts such as sea-level rise and salt water intrusion,” says Nagothu. “High levels of salt in agricultural soil or irrigation water make it difficult for salt-sensitive rice plants and other crops to absorb water and necessary nutrients. As a result, plant growth is suppressed and crop yields are significantly reduced.” Farmers in Vietnam’s Red River and Mekong deltas are already losing income because of salt. In some regions, rice production has now been abandoned in favour of shrimp cultivation in ponds, as brackish-water shrimp varieties tolerate higher salt levels than most rice varieties. In the Red River delta, salt water can intrude 30-40 km inland, followed by high water levels in the riverbeds and increased sedimentation in canals and flooded plains. During the dry season, seawater moves even further inland because of the lack of fresh water in the canals. So rice paddy fields are exposed to high salinity levels, making large tracts of productive land unfit for crop cultivation. The situation in southern Bangladesh, where various measures to meet these issues have been tested, is similar. “In Bangladesh, one successful measure has been an aquifer recharge that collects fresh water during the rainy season for use in the dry season,” Nagothu says.” This, in combination with improved soil management, can greatly benefit agricultural land vulnerable to salt water intrusion.” But he insists that the development of salt-tolerant varieties of rice and other crops accessible to smallholder farmers is vital. “As of now, very few seed varieties on the market are able to tolerate the high salt levels that farmers in these regions are experiencing,” he says. Salt-tolerant varieties “The salt-tolerant rice varieties developed so far are not good enough to meet the high salinity levels. They are also expensive, and thus unavailable to most smallholder farmers.” In addition to developing new rice varieties, other possible measures include implementing crop rotation systems, soil salinity management using raised seedbeds, and changes in sowing dates. According to Nagothu, there is a need for several improvements, including: an advance in the science underlying new rice varieties; alternative cropping systems; physical infrastructure to withstand sea-level rise; and ways of increasing production for a growing population. A more hands-on approach from local policymakers is also necessary, he says. Although they acknowledge the issues at hand, adequate funding is rarely provided for research on the development and extension of salinity management measures. “Developing new seed varieties are expensive,” Nagothu says. “Without sufficient funding, developing more salt-tolerant rice and other crop varieties is very difficult.”