Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– Pressure on foreign exchange reserve has gradually increased due mainly to higher import payments, particularly for fuel oils, food grains and power plant equipments, officials said. 
Bangladesh has made a routine payment of US$909 million to the Asian Clearing Union (ACU) against imports during November-December period of the last calendar year.
The payment pushed the country’s foreign exchange reserve down to $10.18 billion on Thursday from $11.227 billion of the previous day, the central bank officials confirmed. 
“The central bank will pay $158 million more to ACU within a couple of days,” a senior official of the Bangladesh Bank (BB) said, adding that the central bank has provided $200 million liquidity support to the commercial banks under overdraft (OD) facilities in the last two weeks. 
He also said the central bank has remitted the fund to the ACU headquarters in Tehran in line with the existing provision of the nine-member union.
Bangladesh is importing different consumer items and raw materials from the ACU member countries, particularly from India, to meet their growing demands in the local market.
Under the existing provisions, outstanding import bills and interest accruing against thereof are settled at the end of every two months among the member countries.
“We’re providing the OD facilities to the commercial banks to keep the country’s inter-bank foreign exchange market stable,” he said, adding that such liquidity support will continue in line with the market requirement. 
As part of the move, the BB provided OD facilities worth US$92 million on Thursday to help two commercial banks settle their import bills. 
The country’s imports grew by nearly 42 per cent during the first five months of the current fiscal over that of the corresponding period of the previous fiscal.
The value of letters of credit (LCs) against imports worth US$ 12.151 billion was settled during the July-November period of the 2010-2011 fiscal, compared with $8.575 billion in the same period of the previous fiscal, according to the central bank statistics.
During the period, import of food grains and other consumer goods increased by 113.81 per cent and 13.24 per cent respectively over the same period of the previous fiscal.
The import of food grains stood at $662.81 million during the period as against $310.01 million of the corresponding period of the previous fiscal, while import of other consumer goods rose to $692.81 million from $611.82 million. 
Import of petroleum products grew by 67.28 per cent to $1.145 million during the period against $684.92 million of the corresponding period of the previous fiscal, the BB data showed.
BBN/SI/AD-08Jan11-6:04 pm (BST)