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Bangladesh cyclone destroys 800,000 tonnes of rice

DHAKA (Reuters) - A cyclone that killed thousands of people in Bangladesh destroyed at least 800,000 tonnes of rice in the fields, exacerbating a food shortage the government was already grappling with, a government adviser said.

Bangladeshi farmers unload rice stalks after harvesting from their field in Savar, 20 km from Dhaka, April 28, 2007. A cyclone that killed thousands of people in Bangladesh destroyed at least 800,000 tonnes of rice in the fields, a government adviser said. REUTERS/Rafiqur Rahman/Files

Cyclone Sidr last month wiped out a total of 553,000 hectares of crops, causing losses totalling about 20 billion taka ($290 million), said C.S. Karim, agriculture adviser to Bangladesh’s army-backed interim government.

“In the present situation, the country would need to import a total of 1.9 million tonnes of rice,” Karim said.

The Nov. 15 cyclone, the strongest since 1991 when another storm killed around 143,000 people along Bangladesh’s coasts, struck closely on the heels of devastating floods in July-September, which killed over 1,000 people and washed away about 1 million tonnes of rice.

Karim said the country would also need to import two million tonnes of wheat to meet the foodgrains shortfall.

With the estimated loss due to the cyclone, the yield of the country’s main rice variety, Aman, might fall short of target by over 1.8 million tonnes this season, agriculture ministry officials said.

Neighbouring India has decided to allow Bangladesh to import half a million tonnes of rice from there, lifting a ban on exports of the food staple.

Bangladesh has also sought half a million tonnes in food aid by March 2008 from donors to offset the effects of the floods and the cyclone.

Economists fear the cyclone could fuel inflation, already running at around an annual 10 percent, and deal a fresh blow to the country’s sluggish economy.

Bangladesh’s army-backed interim authority, which took charge in January, said it would use all available resources to tackle the cyclone’s aftermath.