Bangladesh to buy 200,000 tonnes of rice from Myanmar


Bangladesh will buy 200,000 tonnes of white rice from Myanmar, putting aside a rift over the Rohingya refugee crisis as the government races to shore up depleted reserves amid soaring prices for the staple grain.

The government-to-government deal is priced at US$465.50 (S$653) a tonne, including cost, insurance and freight (CIF) liner out basis, two officials with direct knowledge of the matter said.

"The deal will be signed soon and the rice will be delivered within two months," one of the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the pact has not been made public yet.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh and mostly Buddhist Myanmar have been at odds over the more than 1 million Muslim Rohingya refugees in camps in southern Bangladesh.

The vast majority of them fled from Myanmar in 2017 to escape a military-led crackdown that UN investigators said was executed with "genocidal intent" - which Myanmar denies.

Bangladesh is also buying a total of 330,000 tonnes of rice from Vietnam and India.

The government expanded sales of rice at cheaper prices to millions of poor families this month, in a bid to rein in high domestic prices.

"We are making all efforts to import rice to boost reserves and cool domestic prices," Ismiel Hossain, secretary of the Ministry of Food. Bangladesh last week slashed the import duty on rice from 25 per cent to 15 per cent, the second cut since July. Its private rice import scheme has only resulted in purchases of 36,000 tonnes since July, when the government allowed private traders to import nearly 1 million tonnes of rice after slashing duty to 25 per cent from 62.5 per cent. Bangladesh, traditionally the third-biggest rice producer in the world, often imports to manage shortages caused by natural disasters.