(Adds reserves, details)
By Ruma Paul
DHAKA, May 9 (Reuters) - Bangladesh's state grains buyer will import 600,000 tonnes of rice in an effort to replenish reserves and rein in prices of the staple, the agency's head told Reuters on Tuesday.
Authorities are also considering waiving the tax on rice imports, said Badrul Hasan, the head of the Directorate General of Food, as local prices have hit a record high and state reserves are at a six-year low.
The state buyer issued a tender to import 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice on Tuesday, its first such tender in many years, after flash floods hit fields about to be harvested, potentially wiping out 700,000 tonnes of crops.
"We will import a total of 600,000 tonnes of rice, while we have already issued a tender and another tender will be issued very soon," Hasan said.
He said the state agency also planned to import rice through government-to-government deals with producers such as Thailand, Vietnam and India as importing via tenders is a lengthy process.
The world's fourth-biggest producer of rice with more than 30 million tonnes of rice, Bangladesh consumes almost all its production to feed its population.
It often requires imports to cope with shortages caused by natural disasters such as floods and droughts.
Bangladesh was ranked as the fourth-largest importer of the grain by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2011, as low stocks and soaring prices led the government to import.
Since then, the state grains buyer has not imported rice although private traders have done, mostly from India.
In 2015, Bangladesh's government imposed a tariff of 28 percent on rice imports to protect local farmers after private traders imported around 1.5 million tonnes of rice from India that led to a drop in prices in domestic markets.
State rice reserves in government warehouses have fallen to around 350,000 tonnes, the lowest in six years.
Rice is the main staple for Bangladesh's 160 million people, but wheat consumption is also rising due to lifestyle changes.
Bangladesh imports about 4.5 million tonnes of wheat annually to meet growing demand, making it south Asia's top wheat buyer, while the country's output has stagnated at about 1 million tonnes.
(Editing by David Evans)
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