The country witnessed a robust growth in wheat import during last five fiscal years’ period, mainly for changing food habit of the countrymen.
With around 5.5 million tons of barely purchased, Bangladesh has emerged as a leading wheat importer in the world with its import volume hitting a record high in the last fiscal year, mainly due to a shift in consumers’ diet preference and flourishing baked food market, according to the industry insiders.
The country ranks fifth in wheat imports in the world. The other four leading wheat importers are: Egypt (12 million tonnes), Indonesia (9.5 million tonnes), Algeria (8 million tonnes) and Brazil (7 million tonnes). The country’s wheat import tripled in five years to 5.4 million tonnes in FY 2016-17 from 1.8 million tonnes in FY 2012-13. The import of wheat was 2.7 million tonnes in FY 2013-14, followed by 3.8 million in 2014-15 and 4.2 million in 2015-16.
The country has turned to the Black Sea region for wheat import because supply from India has dwindled as it meets growing domestic demand, said agriculture expert Dr Delwar Hossain.
The South Asian country imports around 5.5 million tonnes of wheat, making it one of the world’s biggest importers of the grain. Bangladesh’s output has stagnated at around 1.3 million tons.
A recent report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations predicted that wheat import requirements for the 2018-19 fiscal for the Bangladesh will be at a record level of over 6 million tones, 34 percent above the previous five-year average following steady increases since 2012-13 fiscal.
The strong demand for wheat reflects a shift in consumers’ diet preferences as well as the increased use as a substitute for more expensive rice. Similarly, maize import requirements are expected to increase to 1.7 million tonnes, 10 percent more than last year’s record due to sustained demand for feed. By contrast, rice import requirements are estimated at a well below-average level of 850 000 tonnes reflecting ample supplies from the record output in 2018.
Overall, cereal import requirements in the 2018-19 marketing year (July/June) are estimated at 8.6 million tonnes, almost 30 percent above the five-year’s average and 22 percent less than previous year’s unusual high, said the report.
Talking to The Daily Industry, director (marketing) of PRAN-RFL Group, a leading manufacturer of wheat-based food items, said, “The consumers’ dietary habits and lifestyle have changed a lot. Many of them now skip rice in lunch or dinner and have snacks, breads, noodles and other sophisticated food items in which wheat are used.”
He said they are exporting many wheat-based diversified food products to markets in India, Europe, USA, Malaysia and the Middle-East.
Kamal stressed the need for government efforts to increase wheat production.
“We’re trying to increase domestic production, develop better breeds and increase the crop’s acreage,” said Naresh Chandra Dev, a top ranking official of the Wheat Research Centre while talking to Daily Industry yesterday.
A FAO report also revealed that, the world would require around 840 million tonnes of wheat by 2050 from current production level of 642 million tonnes and it has to be achieved with less land and resources through genetic, physiological and agronomic interventions, particularly resource conservation technologies. Besides, precision breeding for improving varietal elasticity, new initiatives for climate change monitoring and crop modeling for advance yield forecasts would help in fulfilling future demands.