Rice exports to Bangladesh via West Bengal more likely to commence

23 May 2020 1:00 PM
Rice exports to Bangladesh through West Bengal will probably begin soon as the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has taken a hardcore stand against the state government for not allowing border trade with India's eastern neighbour. MHA has asked the state chief secretary to immediately allow transportation of essentials through land ports on the Indo-Bangladesh border. Traders said that trucks packed with rice are stuck at the border, creating daily losses to the freight companies.

“The trucks are waiting at the Bangladesh border for a long time now. Regardless of the MHA order, the movement of trucks is stalled,” said Suraj Agarwal, ceo of Tirupati Agri Trade. “Now we are hearing that from May 20, exports between your two countries through the Petrapole-Benapole border can start.” Bangladesh imports basmati rice from Punjab and Haryana and the GI-tagged Gobindobhog and other types of rice from West Bengal.

Although exports through the land route have come to a halt, basmati rice has began to reach Bangladesh through the sea route. “Rice is certainly going from Mundra port to Chittagong port through sea route,” said Angshu Mallick, deputy ceo of Adani Wilmar. Farmers in West Bengal are also waiting for exports to Bangladesh to start as prices of rice have fallen in the past one month.

Subrata Mondol, secretary of Rice Mill Association of Burdwan, said: “Because the state government has made a decision to give free ration for half a year because of the outbreak of Covid-19, the cost of rice has fallen. The normal swarna masoori rice that was offered by Rs 27 per kg a month ago has dropped to Rs 24 per kg. Similarly, minikit rice that was offered by Rs 45 a kg a few days ago is now selling at Rs 36 per kg. Prices will set if exports start to Bangladesh.”

However, the rice trade is facing an unusual problem. Unseasonal rains are damaging the boro paddy crop, which has been harvested now. West Bengal produces 15-16 million tonnes of paddy annually in three seasons which include aus, aman and boro. The kharif paddy (aus and aman) output accounts for about 70% of the total production in the state.