‘Bangladesh may turn to Myanmar for rice import’

July 16th, 2008 - 9:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, July 16 (IANS) Bangladesh, which banked on India for its imports of rice when the country was hit by cyclone Sidr last year, may now turn to another neighbour Myanmar for more supplies to meet additional needs, said a Bangladeshi newspaper. The New Age daily Wednesday said Dhaka was considering Myanmar, “one of the most convenient sources”, for import of rice for meeting shortfalls or additional needs in times of exigency.

However, the report made no mention of the 400,000 tonnes of rice India exported to Bangladesh after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee pledged the assistance during his December visit.

The imports witnessed prolonged parleys on the price, triggering speculation and domestic price rise which were blamed on India.

The total annual demand for rice in Bangladesh is 30 million tonnes while the deficit of 1.2 to 1.4 million tonnes is usually imported from India.

Officials said the commerce ministry was examining a proposal from the food ministry and the Bangladesh Bank to raise the ceiling of the volume of tradable goods, particularly rice, through its Teknaf river border in the south-eastern region so that higher quantities of rice can be imported in the future.

“We are keen to talk to the Myanmar authorities to increase the volume of border trade and also contract farming in that country,” Commerce Secretary Feroz Ahmed was quoted as saying in the report.

According to the proposal, the border trade volume should be increased to goods worth $2 million from a meagre $20,000 for more import of ‘atap’ [fine] rice from Myanmar.

The commerce ministry has already amended certain provisions of the country’s import policy for allowing a higher quantity of imports from Myanmar. Paddy, rice, wheat, onion, maize, pulse and fish are imported from Myanmar under the import policy.

Much of Myanmar-Bangladesh trade is through small barges and is unofficial.

“Border trade should also be accepted by the Chittagong Port so that the two neighbouring countries can exchange more goods and commodities,” said an official.

Earlier, Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Kyaw Thu said his country has one million tonnes of surplus rice for export per annum, and exporting 300,000 tonnes of rice to Bangladesh on a regular basis should not be a problem.

Sources in the business sector said those who trade with Myanmar do not send the money through regular banking channels due to the US’ embargo against that country.

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