The government is going to allow private importers to bring in 8-10 lakh tonnes of rice to cool off the prices, said officials.
"Initially, 8-10 lakh tonnes of rice will be allowed to be imported privately. The amount will be further increased if required," Mohammad Ismail Hossain, Secretary at the Ministry of Food, told The Business Standard.
On 23 June, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) reduced the import duty from 62.5% to 25% to facilitate imports of the food staple.
According to the food ministry, the government allowed import of 17 lakh tonnes of rice last year, while around 3 lakh tonnes of the staple was actually imported. The duty was reduced to 15% in two phases to ramp up the import.
The highest rice production in Bangladesh is during the Boro season. Although rice prices come down every year during Boro paddy harvesting, the prices surged by Tk5-Tk7 per kg this year.
In the past week, rice prices surged afresh to Tk70-Tk80 per kg. Fine and coarse rice prices are now at Tk65-Tk70 and Tk53-Tk54 per kg
According to a market data by the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), per kilogram of premium rice costs Tk70-80 in Dhaka, which was at Tk56-65 in June last year.
According to the international rice market analysis by the Food Planning and Monitoring Unit (FPMU) of the food ministry, Thailand, India, Vietnam and Pakistan are exporting rice at $360-444 per tonne, which may be at Tk36-Tk47 per kg in retail in the local market.
Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder told TBS that they are working to import rice immediately to calm the volatile market.
"Our main target is to increase the supply. I hope the prices will be tolerable if the supply is ramped up."
The food ministry will issue a circular soon inviting applications from the importers. The ministry will specify the quantity for the importers according to their capacity.
At a meeting of the FPMU in June, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder said natural calamities have affected paddy production across the country including the haor region this year, causing concern over overall rice production.
Rising flour prices coupled with a tight wheat supply forced many people to switch to rice from roti and bread.
While talking about the mounting pressure on rice, the food minister also noted the tight wheat supply and spiking rice demand in the local market for human and non-human consumption.
According to the FPMU, private importers brought in 59.98 lakh tonnes of wheat in the 2019-20 fiscal year. The import plummeted to 48 lakh tonnes in FY21 and 31 lakh tonnes till the first week of June this year.
The government is currently buying paddy and rice from the local market. At present, the government has a stock of 15.60 lakh tonnes of food grains.