Mon, May 12, 2008 - Page 11 News List

Bangladesh to boost rice stocks

SURVIVALThe government has announced plans to stockpile 3.2 million tonnes of rice to help protect the country from further commodity spikes or natural disasters

AFP , DHAKA

Bangladesh will buy a record amount of rice from farmers this year at prices 55 percent higher than last year to stimulate production and build emergency stocks, Food and Agriculture Minister A.M.M. Shawqkat Ali said yesterday.

The government will stockpile 3.2 million tonnes of rice, nearly double the previous record for emergency stocks, he said.

“Previously we built stocks of as much as 1.7 million tonnes. We use it for food aid and food-related development work,” he said.

“We are confident this will make us immune from any food crisis caused by global commodity spikes or any natural disaster,” he said.

The minister said the government would set aside a record amount of cash in the budget to be announced next month to buy at least 2.5 million tonnes of rice from farmers, while another half a million tonnes would be imported from India.

“Besides, the United States, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank have said they would give us some food aid,” he said.

Impoverished Bangladesh has been hit by a food crisis after floods in last July and August and a devastating cyclone in November caused rice prices to double.

The government has distributed cheap food to tens of millions of poor people to try to address what one former minister has described as “silent famine.”

But annual food inflation has stayed above 12 percent since December and many poor Bangladeshis say the price hikes have forced them to get by on just one meal a day.

Ali said a bumper dry season rice crop now being harvested by farmers across the nation had already eased price pressure, while steps were being taken to reap a record crop in the upcoming wet season.

Private firms and the government have also imported around 3.5 million tonnes of food to tackle shortages. Last week the government banned exports of rice for six months. The head of the army also launched a campaign last week urging citizens to supplement their diet with potatoes.

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