Poster in Jun 29, 2024 14:00:01

People began to return to nutritious food, including bread made from wheat

People began to return to nutritious food, including bread made from wheat

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After two years of price reduction, people started returning to nutritious food including bread made from wheat. The export of food products is also increasing

Imports of wheat, the raw material for making flour and flour-based food products, decreased for two consecutive fiscal years due to the rise in prices in the world market after the start of the Russia-Ukraine war. As a result, people tend to eat rice. Now as the price of wheat is falling in the world market, the price of flour has fallen in the country. Again the price of flour is less than that of rice. For that reason, people have started returning to various food products made from flour and flour which are more nutritious than rice.

Due to the increase in flour consumption in Bangladesh, traders have increased wheat imports. Data from the National Board of Revenue (NBR) showed that wheat imports were 67 lakh tonnes in the 11-and-a-half months (till June 20) of the current financial year 2023-24. In the previous financial year 2022-23, the import was 51 lakh tonnes. That is, wheat import has increased by about 31 percent in one year. Imports will increase further in the last 10 days of the financial year because wheat is now being unloaded from 13 ships at Chittagong port.

Chairman of BSM Group Abul Bashar Chowdhury said, that if the price of rice is higher than that of flour, then the poor people will increase the consumption of flour bread. After a long time, as the price of flour was lower than that of rice, the tendency of poor people to eat bread increased. That is why the import of wheat has increased.

Abul Bashar Chowdhury also said that currently, the price of wheat is less than half compared to rice in the world market. So reducing rice imports and increasing wheat imports will save dollars.

According to Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) data, flour prices were 8 percent higher than coarse rice a year ago. But now it is 20 percent less than rice. Open flour is being sold at Tk 40 to Tk 45 per kg in the market. On the other hand, the least expensive and coarse rice is being sold at Tk 50 to Tk 54 per kg.

Only 15 percent of wheat is produced in the country. The rest of the demand has to be met by imports. The increase in wheat imports has various effects on the lives of consumers and the economy. First, being more nutritious than rice, wheat flour provides additional nutrients. Secondly, a huge industry has developed in the country for making various types of food products using flour. It increases economic activity. Thirdly, exports of wheat-based food products will also increase. Due to these reasons, if the import of wheat increases, it is seen as positive.

Once upon a time, poor people used to eat flour bread instead of rice to save cost. As it is more nutritious than rice, a decade ago there was an increase in the consumption of ata bread and various dishes made from ata among the upper-class and health-conscious people. Diabetic patients also started eating bread instead of rice.

As a result of such changes in dietary habits, the consumption of wheat increased rapidly. For example, the year before the Russia-Ukraine war, wheat consumption in the country was recorded. The supply of wheat, including the import and production of services, stood at 77 Lakh 90 thousand tons.

According to a report by the United States Food and Agriculture Organization (USDA), wheat consumption has doubled in a decade as people shift from rice to wheat-based food products. As the price is lower than that of rice, the consumption of wheat is increasing now.

According to the data of NBR and the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the supply of wheat in the country decreased by 6 percent in the fiscal year 2021-22, the year the Russia-Ukraine war started. In the next financial year 2022–23, there was a decrease of 14 percent.

Wheat is imported into the country from Black Sea countries like Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania.

Most of the food products made in the country other than rice are made with flour. An increase in wheat import increases the workload in food manufacturing factories, bakeries, confectioneries and hotel restaurants. It increases employment in this sector.

The export of food products made of wheat and flour from the country is also increasing. Exports of wheat-based dry food products declined by nearly 20 percent in FY 2022-23. But now exports are increasing again. According to EPB, exports of dry food products in the 11 months of the current fiscal year amounted to $200 million, which was $188.7 million in the same period of the previous fiscal year. That is, exports have increased by 6.45 percent.

According to customs data, import costs of common durum wheat fell to $390 per ton during the Russia-Ukraine war. Now reading 260 to 270 dollars. That is, the cost per ton has decreased by 120 dollars or 31 percent.

However, compared to the world market, the price of wheat in the country has not decreased that much. According to TCB, open flour prices in the country fell by 21 percent in a year.

Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) research director Khandaker Golam Moazzem said, that generally between rice and flour, the trend of consumption increases towards the one whose price decreases. But as the price of wheat has decreased in the world market, the price of flour has not decreased in the country. One of the reasons for this is the rising dollar exchange rate. Apart from this, it is also important to develop fair management in the market.

Source: Online/GFMM

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