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DHAKA: Bangladesh is finalising deals with Vietnam and India to import a total of 330,000 tonnes of rice as it races to replenish reserves and cool domestic prices, two officials with direct knowledge of the matter said on Monday.

Soaring prices of the staple grain for the country’s 165 million people pose a problem for the government, which plans to expand cut-price rice sales to help people hard-hit by high costs.

The south Asian country will buy 100,000 tonnes of parboiled rice from an Indian public sector firm and 200,000 tonnes of parboiled rice and 30,000 tonnes of white rice from Vietnam, the government officials said.

The price for the parboiled rice from Vietnam will be $521 a tonne and white rice $494 a tonne, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deals have not been made public.

The price for rice from neighbouring India will be $443.50 per tonne via seaports and $428.50 per tonne via railways, the officials said. All the prices included freight, insurance and unloading costs, they said.

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“Preparations are underway to sign the deals soon,” one of the officials said, adding the rice would be delivered within two to three months after the signing.

The Bangladesh government is also holding talks with Myanmar to import rice, the officials said, putting aside a rift over the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Bangladesh this week slashed import duty on rice to 15% from 25%, cutting it for the second time since July in a bid to boost private imports.

Its private rice import plan, however, faces a setback with only 36,000 tonnes bought since July, after the government allowed private traders to import nearly 1 million tonnes of the staple grain after slashing duty to 25.0% from 62.5%.

The government will begin selling rice at a cheaper rate for 5 million poor families and expand such sales from September, in an effort to rein in surging domestic prices, which saw yet another uptick after it hiked domestic oil prices early this month.

Bangladesh, traditionally the world’s third-biggest rice producer with around 35 million tonnes annually, uses almost all its production to feed its people. It still often requires imports to cope with shortages caused by floods or droughts.

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