The government is now negotiating with other countries, apart from India and Vietnam, to import more rice fearing a fall in Aman paddy production because of less rainfall this season, said Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder.
"We [the government] will procure more rice because the weather is prone to drought this year and the Aman harvest might be lower. Another matter of fear is that farmers, anticipating drought, planted Aman paddy in low-lying places that may be overly inundated," the minister said on Tuesday.
"If luck favours us, the low-lying places will produce more paddy but with excessive rainfall, paddy production could be lower."
He, however, did not mention which other countries they are approaching to import rice from.
Sadhan Chandra was addressing a press conference at the Secretariat in the capital, in which he also noted the government procured only 2.68 lakh tonnes of paddy from farmers directly in the last Boro harvesting season against a target of 6.5 lakh tonnes. "But, we could surpass the target by stocking up rice."
"Farmers got a better price for their paddy in the market, which is why we could not collect paddy as per our targets," he said, adding that the government now has a food stock, which is higher compared to other times.
The food ministry has recently procured 5 lakh tonnes of wheat from Russia, 2.30 lakh tonnes of rice from Vietnam, and 1 lakh tonnes of rice from India, apart from local sourcing.
Two lakh tonnes of rice is to be purchased from another country, proposals of which will be placed to the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase on Wednesday, ministry officials said.
When asked whether the government has been procuring wheat at higher prices from Russia, the food minister said, "We purchased the wheat $7 less than the price we had on the day of negotiation, including shipping, insurance, and more."
On rice imports from Thailand, Sadhan Chandra said, "Three months after we wrote to Thailand, they responded. A few days ago we forwarded a plan to procure rice from the country but they refused."
According to Food Secretary Md Ismiel Hossain, the Thai government said they will be able to supply rice in five to six months. "Our target was October or November. If rice is given after 6 months, we don't have much use for it."
"We would be happy if we could get rice or wheat from India because we can avail that at lower prices and in the shortest time. But unfortunately, India has a ban on exporting wheat and we are facing delays in getting rice from the country on a G2G basis."
"No entity in India wants to give us large amounts of rice," he added.