Bangladesh will step up wheat purchases from Ukraine to make up for any shortfall in supplies from Russia which has announced plans to impose a higher export tax on the grain from March 1, a senior Dhaka-based government official told Reuters.
Russia's economy minister announced the plans on Friday, in another push to curb a rise in domestic food prices triggered by the COVID-19 crisis.
"We are communicating with Ukraine to import wheat," said Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum, the top civil servant at the country's food ministry.
Under a diplomatic deal, Russia was supposed to export 400,000 tonnes of wheat to Bangladesh in the current fiscal year to June. Moscow has so far supplied 200,000 tonnes of wheat to Dhaka.
Now, it looks like Russia will not be able to supply the rest of the quantity, Khanum said. Bangladesh is the third biggest buyer of Russian wheat after Turkey and Egypt.
"We are also importing wheat through international tenders and from June, we'll start our local wheat procurement drive," she said. Dhaka aims to import 600,000 tonnes of wheat by June, she said.
Bangladesh imports around 6 million tonnes of wheat annually, making it one of the world's biggest grain importers.
Dhaka is rushing to import rice and wheat to shore up its depleted reserves after repeated floods last year ravaged its crops, sending local prices to record highs.