The government is likely to review duty on rice imports to facilitate private purchases from international sources with an eye to maintaining the domestic market stability of the staple.
Food minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder on Monday said the decision to encourage private-sector rice imports was made at a Food Planning and Monitoring Committee meeting to keep the market stable.
The current import duty on rice is 62.5 per cent.
Mr Majumder said they will propose the National Board of Revenue to cut down the duty to zero.
We'll propose the NBR for duty-free rice import… A government order (GO) will be issued after completing the vetting by law, justice and parliamentary affairs ministry."
The minister says it will hardly take one week to complete the procedure.
The summary along with the resolution of the meeting would be sent to the prime minister soon, he adds.
Only after then, the next course of action will be taken, said Mr Majumder while responding to a query at the ministry after the virtual meeting.
The minister said discussions have been held on how to bring duty-free rice without harming farmers, market and others.
Cooperatives minister Tajul Islam, commerce minister Tipu Munshi, fisheries and livestock minister SM Rezaul Karim and state minister for disaster management and relief Dr Md Enamur Rahman joined the meeting.
NBR chairman, senior agriculture secretary, cabinet division secretary (coordination and reforms) and food secretary also attended the meeting.
In June, the price of the coarse rice of the seasonal Boro crop hit the maximum of Tk 54, medium Tk 62 and finer Tk 89 a kg.
According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh and city groceries, rice prices have increased by Tk 5.0-8.0 a kg at retail level in the last two weeks even during this peak Boro season.
Boro harvest is almost done as agriculture ministry expects 20.9-million tonnes of rice from the season.
The current prices are 6.0-9.0 per cent higher than last year's, said the state corporation.
Following market volatility, food ministry started a countrywide drive against illegal hoarding of the staple last week.
Encouraging private import will be the latest move by the government to stabilise the rice market.
Between August and October last year, the private sector imported nearly 0.3-million tonnes of rice as the government reduced import duty to 15 per cent then.
The government itself also brought more than 0.6-million tonnes of rice in the outgoing fiscal year.
After October, the private sector almost stopped import as duty on rice was re-set at the previous rate of 62.5 per cent, according to insiders.
Meanwhile, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection cracked down on illegal hoarding and selling of rice at exorbitant prices in the capital on Monday.
It also fined two shops Tk 0.15 million-M/S Prottasha Rice Agency Tk 100,000 and M/S Shihab Rice Agency Tk 50,000.
DNCRP Dhaka office head Md Abdul Jabbar Mondol and assistant director Md Shariful Islam conducted the drive at Badamtali on the seventh consecutive day.
Rice traders were fined for not showing any price chart, selling rice at exorbitant rates and failing to keep cash receipts on rice purchases from millers, among other reasons.
The directorate has been carrying out the drive since Tuesday, particularly against the hoarding and selling of rice at high prices by profit-mongers.
It will continue until the rice market becomes normal.