February 10, 2017 / 8:51 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Bangladesh sees 2016/17 wheat imports at 250,000 T

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DHAKA, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Bangladesh’s state grains buyer expects to import a total of around 250,000 tonnes wheat in the 2016/17 financial year ending June, about half the quantity it expected to import earlier.

It has already agreed to ship in 200,000 tonnes in its first government-to-government deal with Russia, with the first cargo of 55,000 tonnes arriving next week, the agency’s head said on Friday.

Bangladesh, South Asia’s top wheat buyer, has turned to the Black Sea region for wheat as supply from India dwindled.

The grains agency is also looking to take delivery of another 50,000 tonnes that was bought in an earlier tender.

“After this ... we don’t need to procure more wheat from international markets,” Badrul Hasan, the head of the state grains agency told Reuters, adding that this was due to stable local prices.

No tender for wheat purchases will be floated over the next few months, he said.

Typically, the government imports more wheat to replenish stockpiles, as it increases market supply whenever prices go up.

Such procurement is crucial for the South Asian nation to feed its poor and keep domestic prices stable.

Bangladesh’s rice and wheat reserves have fallen to nearly 900,000 tonnes as of end-January, from 1.5 million tonnes during the same period a year ago, due to less imports.

The government is also handing out cash instead of wheat or rice to the poor as part of some welfare schemes, Hasan said, implying lower imports of the grains.

U.S. wheat prices on Friday lingered near a seven-month peak touched the session before, remaining on track for a weekly gain of around 3 percent on expectations of strong U.S. exports.

Apart from government purchases, private traders import around 4.5 million tonnes of wheat annually to meet growing demand, while the country’s output has stagnated at about 1 million tonnes.

Rice is the main staple for Bangladesh’s 160 million people, but wheat consumption is also rising because of lifestyle changes.

A spike in rice prices in the domestic market caused Bangladesh’s annual inflation rate to pick up again in January after a brief fall in the previous two months. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)

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