The government's attempt to import about one lakh tonne of rice from Myanmar for the Targeted Pubic Distribution System (TPDS) in Manipur and Mizoram may not succeed, with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) getting bids far higher than the expected price.
Sources told FE that MMTC and STC, which floated the global tenders on behalf of FCI for importing rice, got average bids of around $600 per tonne against the expected $400 per tonne. The corporation got $ 588 and $ 680 per tonne respectively for Manipur and Mizoram for rice import from Myanmar. “We received bids (for rice import) much higher than our anticipation of $ 400 per tonne,” an official said.
Last month, the government had approved import of one lakh tonne of rice in the next five months from Myanmar to the north-eastern states in view of disruption of grain supplies due to commencement of long-pending railway gauge conversion work on the 220-km Lumding (Assam)-Badarpur-Agartala (Tripura) line.
A food ministry official said the government has to now plan out an alternate model for meeting the demand for rice for TPDS in the north-eastern states during the gauge conversion work.
The cost of transporting rice from surplus states like Punjab or Andhra Pradesh to Tripura and Mizoram works out to about R3,200 per quintal, taking into account FCI’s economic cost at R2,755 per quintal. "As against this, importing rice from Myanmar would be more economical at around R2,400 per quintal ($400 per tonne), including the cost of transportation from the border," an official had earlier said.
Food ministry officials said although the railways has proposed to complete the gauge conversion work by March 2015, it might be delayed. “Since more than 70% of transportation of foodgrain from Assam to the rest of the north-eastern states is done through the railways, the government is importing rice to increase grain stock so that TPDS distribution is not disrupted,” an official had said.