Bangladesh textile workers to get cheap rice

A labourer carries sacks of rice to load onto a truck in the city's largest wholesale market at Babubazar in Dhaka in this June 21, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj/Files

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh will sell cheaper rice to millions of garment workers because the country’s prime export industry has been hit by the global economic downturn, a government minister said on Wednesday.

The decision followed a request by the country’s textile industry -- which employs 2.5 million, mostly women, workers -- for a bailout as competition in global markets increases.

“The government will sell rice at 18 taka ($0.26) a kilogram against the current retail price of 24 taka to the workers from May 1,” Labour and Employment Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain told reporters.

The minimum monthly wage of a textile worker is less than $25, about half the average earnings of a farm worker.

The sector, which earned around $11 billion in exports in the year to June 2008, is the second-biggest employer after agriculture.

About half of Bangladesh’s more than 140 million people live on less than $1 a day, officials said.