The Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission has opposed the move of a section of traders to export lentils, terming it irrational as the local lentil market relies heavily on imports.
Currently, the export of all types of pulses from Bangladesh is banned. But some traders recently applied to the commerce ministry for lentil exports.
The commission was then tasked with verifying the export proposal, and it prepared a report on the production, import, local stock, and supply of lentils.
According to the report, Bangladesh consumes five lakh tonnes of lentils per year. In the 2019-20 fiscal year, 2.87 lakh tonnes of the edible legume were produced locally in the February-March lentil harvesting season.
The production stood at 2.58 lakh tonnes after deducting 10% system loss in milling, processing and preservation. In that year, the rest of the market demand, nearly 48%, was met by imports.
During the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, lentil prices soared. Then the commission told the commerce ministry that the use of lentils as a relief item for the pandemic-hit and flood affected people created a sudden rise in demand which led to the price hikes.
Citing the hikes, the commission said there is no scope for allowing lentil exports at a time when the country has yet to recover completely from flooding and the effects of Covid-19.
When contacted, tariff commission Member Abu Raihan Al Biruni told The Business Standard that they had analysed the situation and found no point in allowing lentil exports.
In the last couple of months, local crop production has been hampered due to the Covid-19 pandemic and long-term flooding, the report said.
"This has had a negative impact on the supply. Although the government can allow the export of banned or regulated products in special cases, there is no scope for allowing lentil exports considering the current situation," it stated.
The report noted that if the virus situation improves, permission may be granted on a case-by-case basis considering local stocks.
There are usually three types of the edible legume available on the local market – small-sized which is locally grown, and medium and big-sized that are usually imported. Prices of all the categories surged by Tk5-10 per kilogramme in the wake of the virus outbreak in Bangladesh in March.
According to the market monitoring updates of the state-run trading corporation, small-sized lentils are currently Tk110-120 per kilogramme, medium-sized Tk90-100 and big-sized Tk70-80. The trading corporation data says lentil prices are a bit high this month compared to the previous.
Compared to the same period of last year, the price of small-sized lentils rose 9.52%, medium-sized 38.46% and big-sized 21.74%.
The data shows prices of imported lentils soared the most as the prices are on the rise on the international market.
In April, lentil prices on the international market increased to $800 per tonne which dropped slightly to $720 in August. On August 25, the lentil market surged again to reach $800 per tonne.
When contacted, President of the Bangladesh Lentil Wholesalers Association Shafi Mahmud said, "We are meeting demand through imports. There is no scope for exports in this situation."