A woman cleans rice for sale at a shop in Phnom Penh on Aug 2, 2017. (Reuters photo)
DHAKA: Bangladesh has cancelled its first-ever deal with Cambodia to import 250,000 tonnes of white rice over a delay in shipments, officials at the state grains buyer said on Tuesday.
The deal was signed in August at $453.00 a tonne as the Bangladesh government raced to shore up depleted stocks and combat record domestic prices of the staple grain after floods hit its crop.
“We had to terminate the deal as they failed to supply the rice on time,” Badrul Hasan, the head of Bangladesh’s state grain buyer, told Reuters.
Despite deals with several rice-exporting countries including Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar, Bangladesh is battling to build its reserves, with rice imports set to hit their highest levels in a decade.
“We don’t think this will have an impact on our efforts to build stocks,” he said, adding the state grains buyer was in talks with an Indian agency.
“Tomorrow we are holding talks with India’s National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED). We hope we will succeed in finalising a deal with them.”
Traditionally the world’s fourth-biggest rice producer, Bangladesh has emerged as a major importer of the grain this year and helped pushed Asian rice prices to multi-year highs in June.
Rice is a staple food for Bangladesh’s 160 million people and high prices pose a problem for the government, which faces a national election next year.
Bangladesh has also issued a series of tenders as it looks to import a total of 1.5 million tonnes of rice in the year to June.
Rice at government warehouses stood at 411,000 tonnes, well below the normal level of around 1 million tonnes.
In August, Bangladesh cut a duty on rice imports for the second time in two months. The lower import duty has prompted purchases by private dealers, with most of the deals being struck with neighbouring India.
Bangladesh produces around 34 million tonnes of rice annually but uses almost all its production to feed its population. It often requires imports to cope with shortages caused by floods or droughts.