- Food ministry started talks with Russia on wheat imports
- Export-import trade with Russia will gradually normalise
- But problem remains with payments for the exclusion of Russia's banks from Swift
- Bangladesh imports cotton, wheat, corn, mustard, lentils from Russia and Ukraine
- Around 3.5 tonnes out of 7 million tonnes of annual wheat demand used to come from these countries
The cloud of uncertainty that overhung Bangladesh's imports of food grains from Russia and Ukraine has begun to be dispelled as a Russian cargo ship arrived at Mongla port on Monday for the first time since the Ukraine war started in February this year.
Tapan Kanti Ghosh, senior secretary to the commerce ministry, said, "We hope export-import trade with Russia will gradually normalise."
The food ministry has officially started talks with Moscow on wheat imports from the country. Private trade will also resume in the coming days as predicted by different international media, he noted.
Payments, however, will still remain an obstacle to the resumption of trade with both the countries as major Russian banks have been cut off from the international financial messaging system SWIFT.
Bangladesh used to import cotton, wheat, corn, mustard and lentils from Russia and Ukraine. Out of the country's total 7 million tonnes of annual wheat demand, around 3.5 million tonnes used to come from these countries.
But the imports of these goods have remained suspended since February 24, when Russia was excluded from the SWIFT system.
Nevertheless, some counties, such as India and China, kept importing Russian oil through alternative banking channels and currencies.
Bangladesh authorities also have taken efforts to resume the trade to meet the grain demand at home.
The US embassy in Dhaka, recently in a fact sheet said there is no restriction on the production, sale and transportation of the Russian food products, including fertilisers.
It also said there were no restrictions on Russia's food and fertiliser trade despite other restrictions due to the attack on Ukraine.
In the meantime, a Russian cargo ship with around 3,328 tonnes of machinery for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant on Monday arrived at Mongla port.
Mongla Port Authority Chairman Rear Admiral Mohammad Musa said, "War is an internal matter of that country. Machinery or state-of-the-art equipment required for all ongoing mega projects in our country are imported from abroad. So, these products are coming to Mongla port as per the rules."
"Our trade relations with Russia are good even though there has been a break for some time due to the war. From now on, products will arrive regularly on Russian ships."
Nuru and Sons owner, HM Dulal, a sub-contractor involved in importing machinery for Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, told The Business Standard, "The arrival of Russian ships at Mongla port temporarily stopped due to the Russia-Ukraine war. The last Russian-flagged ship that arrived at the port before this one was MV Fesco Uliss, which docked here on 18 October 2021."
Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant authorities, however, said the arrival of the latest ship has no relation with the war and western sections of Russia.
Dr Md Shawkat Akbar, project director at Rooppur Nuclear Power Project, said according to the schedule of shipment, Joint-Stock Company Atomstroyexport (JSC ASE), a key foreign trade engineering company of State Corporation Rosatom, has sent this equipment.
Some equipment is being shipped through airways and some through waterways. But there was no shipment scheduled since the war began, said Shawkat Akbar.
Food grains importing authorities, the food ministry, said the import from Russia depends on the currency issue. If the mode of payment is settled, the import will be easier.
Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder said, "The western sanctions do not include food items. However, it would be known once we start importing the items."