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UPDATE 1-Bangladesh to buy 200,000 tonnes of rice from Myanmar

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By Ruma Paul

DHAKA, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Bangladesh will buy 200,000 tonnes of white rice from Myanmar, putting aside a rift over the Rohingya refugee crisis as the government races to shore up depleted reserves amid soaring prices for the staple grain.

The government-to-government deal is priced at $465.50 a tonne, including cost, insurance and freight (CIF) liner out basis, two officials with the direct knowledge of the matter said.

"The deal will be signed soon and the rice will be delivered within two months," one of the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the pact was not made public yet.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh and mostly Buddhist Myanmar have been at odds over the more than 1 million Muslim Rohingya refugees in camps in southern Bangladesh. The vast majority of them fled from Myanmar in 2017 to escape a military-led crackdown that U.N investigators said was executed with “genocidal intent” - which Myanmar denies.

Bangladesh is also buying a total of 330,000 tonnes of rice from Vietnam and India.

The government was also trying to import rice from Thailand while more rice could be imported from India as it plans to import 1 million tonnes, the officials said.

The government expanded sales of rice at cheaper prices to millions of poor families this month, in a bid to rein in high domestic prices.

"We are making all efforts to import rice to boost reserves and cool domestic prices," said Ismiel Hossain, secretary of the Ministry of Food.

Bangladesh last 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. The import duty had been set at 62.5% earlier.

Some 246,000 tonnes have been purchased under a private rice import scheme introduced by the government in July, when it said private traders could import nearly 1 million tonnes. The scheme got off to a slow start, but purchases gathered momentum in late August.

Bangladesh, traditionally the third-biggest rice producer in the world, often imports to manage shortages caused by natural disasters.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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