Wheat imports crossed the 40 lakh-tonne mark for the first time in the outgoing fiscal year, buoyed by low international prices and increased demand from food manufacturers, said operators.
Wheat arrivals rose 11 percent year-on-year to 42 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2015-16 -- the highest in the last three decades -- with the private sector accounting for 88 percent of the imports, according to data from the food ministry.
“This is because wheat consumption is going up,” said Tariq Ahmed, director of operation and marketing of TK Group, a large commodity importer and processor based in Chittagong.
The expansion of bakery and confectionary industries has raised the demand for wheat. “The food sector is growing by 15-20 percent a year, so consumption will go up further,” he added.
“Expansion of fast food restaurants and a growing export-oriented food processing sector suggest that Bangladesh is an emerging market for higher protein wheat,” said the US Department of Agriculture in a report on wheat milling in Bangladesh.
For the last four years, local farmers have been growing the cereal on more lands, raising total production to 13 lakh tonnes on an average.
But local production could meet only one-fourth of the annual demand of nearly 50 lakh tonnes, according to industry analysts.