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India has not stopped export of wheat officially: Food Minister

Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Mazumder talks to journalists during his visit to food godowns in Sylhet Sadar on Sunday afternoon.

India has banned export of wheat on the ground of curtailed output and increase of local prices an all-time high. Amid the Russia-Ukraine war, India’s sudden decision has created the possibility of soaring flour prices in international market. Bangladesh may also be affected by India’s decision.

However, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Mazumder has said the neighbouring country has not stopped exporting wheat officially. Rather, it has stopped the export of wheat at private level.

The minister was talking to reporters during a visit to a food godown in Sylhet Sadar at about 2:30pm on Sunday.

Regarding the Indian government’s directive about the export of wheat, he said, “India has just stopped export of wheat unofficially. The country has not stopped the export officially. It has been clearly stated in their directive. So, it would not be a difficult issue for us.”

Moreover, he said India would have to sell their wheat which they have produced. They may have issued a circular today, but may withdraw it after 15 days or a month. “So, I don’t think that it would be wise to make any comment on the issue in advance.”

Claiming that the country is now self-sufficient in food, the minister said the country has not import any rice in the last one year. The demand of rice is being met with the local production. Bangladesh needs to import wheat. Wheat is imported at the private level. The wheat which is imported by the government is usually brought from Russia and Ukraine. Bangladesh has already imported 3 lakh metric tonnes of wheat from India. It would be possible to import the rest of the requirement of wheat, he said.

Regarding the price hike of edible oils, the Food Minister said, “The price hike of edible oils is not a problem of Bangladesh only. If we take the existing global situation, we will find that Bangladesh’s situation is good compared to that of India. In India, each litre of soyabean oil is being sold at Rs 210 per litre. We are in a favourable position if we take the price of edible oil in India into account.”

This year the government has fixed the rice procurement price at Tk 27 per kg. Farmers of haors is considering that the price is still low.

However, the government has no plan to raise the price of paddy. If the paddy price is hiked, rice price would go up.

Sadhan Chandra Mazumder said farmers are being given various types of incentives and subsidies. They are receiving subsidies in fertilisers and electricity. If all the subsidies are taken into account, the farmers are getting fair and rational prices for their produces.

Apart from edible oil, onion prices are also increasing. The Food Minister pointed out the logic behind onion price hike. “Farmers are cultivating and producing onion now. Their onion produced by them are in the market. If the government allows to import more onion in such a situation, farmers will abandon the practice of cultivating onion. Many of them have already abandoned cultivating onion. Prices of onion will not go up further, because the government is trying to control the prices of onion through TCB.

Despite the substantial damage of Boro paddy following sudden increase of water in haors due to onrush of water from the upstream, the Food Minister said there is no possibility of food shortage this year.

“This year, Boro paddy has been cultivated on a vast area in haors. We hope that there will be no scarcity of food due to the damage of standing Boro crop in haors. We have huge quantity of foodgrains in stock. Besides, we will be able to build to stockpile huge quantity of foodgrains once we complete harvesting Boro paddy. Aus paddy output will also be very promising. There is a favourable environment to plant Aus saplings because of rain. It would be wrong to think that Bangladesh will face food shortage,” he said.

The Food Minister also said a modern silo would be built in Sylhet to preserve rice. “We are looking for a suitable land to build the silo,” he said.

Food Secretary Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum, Sylhet deputy commissioner Mojibar Rahman, senior officials of the Department of Food were present.