Russia-Ukraine situation is rattling international grain markets, driving wheat prices higher in some of the markets

Wheat Stock And Import Position
Infograph Dhaka Tribune

Reaz Ahmad

February 5, 2022 12:31 AM

Amidst dried up wheat stock in the country the government has decided to halt allocation of the grain for all relief works in the current fiscal and supply rice instead.

The decision to stop releasing wheat from public silos for relief purposes under the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries of relief and disaster and CHT affairs have taken on Wednesday, officials at the Food Ministry confirmed.

It has been decided that if needed rice will be supplied instead of scheduled wheat allocation meant for relief works under the heads of Ashrayan Project, Test Relief (TR), Food-for-Work (FFW), etc.

The move comes when high prices of wheat in the international market see Bangladesh import volume plummets in recent months.

Just a year into Bangladesh’s emergence as the world’s 5th largest wheat importer after Egypt, Indonesia, Algeria, and Brazil in 2020-21, the country’s import has hit a new low in the current fiscal.

The huge drop in wheat imports come at a time when Bangladesh’s newfound export item (wheat-based products) was just making a niche.

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Tension over the Russia-Ukraine situation is rattling international grain markets, driving wheat prices higher in some of the markets from where Bangladesh sources its wheat.

Russia and Ukraine – two nations combined account for 29% of global wheat exports, according to data from the U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA).

Food Ministry data shows there is less than 300,000 tons of wheat available in public granaries as against a good rice stock of 16,76,000 tons and it decided rest of the allocation for relief works will be made in rice instead of wheat up until June this year.

Wheat import scenario
USDA says Bangladesh emerged as the world’s 5th largest importer of wheat by importing the grain in excess of seven million tons in the last marketing year (2020-21).

On Thursday, Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque said Bangladesh imported 4.8 million tons of wheat in the 2020-21 financial year, which has dropped to just 1.6 million tons in the first seven months of the current fiscal.

He assigned high wheat prices in the international market for such a fall in imports. “We used to get wheat at $230-280 a ton but the price has shot up to $450. That’s why flour prices now surpass the rice prices.”

Food Ministry data, however, shows Bangladesh’s last financial year’s import volume at 5.3 million tons, of which private importers brought over 4.8 million tons and the government imported nearly half a million tons.

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