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Overcoming food crisis: Bangladesh has little or no shortage in food production! June 6, 2008

Posted by bdoza in AGRICULTURE, BANGLADESH, ECONOMY, Food Security, GOVERNANCE.
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I was also worried with the same question –’Is Bangladesh able to produce enough food to sustain its progressively increasing population’ until I read this article (in Bengali)of Dr. Sadat Hussain, Chairman, Public Service Commission and ex-Cabinet Secretary, Government of Bangladesh published in “Prothom Alo’, the leading Bangla daily on 6th June, 2008.

Dr. Sadat is an insider and he has long exposure to the facts of the state of Bangladesh.
He believes that there is no possibility that Bangladesh will suffer from severe food crisis in near future. The sense of insecurity arises in the minds of people because of 2 consecutive floods, Cyclone Sidr and difficulty in procure the 2-5 ton rice by the government to control the increasing price of rice, the main staple food of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh didn’t export rice over the last 50 years and except in 1974, there was no major crisis of food in this area. Bangladesh has to import wheat over the years as it was never independent in wheat production. Only in the years of severe natural calamities, Bangladesh had to import grains which is never more than 10 to 15% of its total production.
Only exceptional year is 1999. The main source of procuring grains is the foreign food grant. But for the last few years this grant is gradually decreasing. To combat the food crisis, the country had to import wheat on commercial basis. The rice as food grant, in some years, fell down to Zero. Bangladesh didn’t need to import rice significantly though there was little food grant. To overcome the food shortage, Bangladesh has to import about 2.5 m (25lac) ton wheat each year.
After independence, Bangladesh used to produce 10 million ( 100 lac) ton for 75 m (7.5 crore ) people. In this season it produced about 30 million(300 lac) ton rice due to bumper harvest of Boro for 150 m(15 crore) people. Where the population increased 2 times, the grains produced 3 times.
He added that though state of production of grains in Bangladesh is almost self sustainable, the problem lies with its lack of protection from any internal or external pressure. Minor mismanagement or disturbing business trends leads the situation to worse.
He also added that in 1980-81, 1989-90, 1991-92 the collection of grain by the governments was more than 1 million ton where the production was in 14.7 m in 80-81 and 19.1 m in 90-91. It is very curious that the government is feeling difficulty to procure 1 milliin ton this time though the production is much higher from the earlier those years. The fact is that a class of holders of grains developed in the meantime who are procuring rice themselves and control the price of rice for maximum profit and make the government’s task difficult.

Price of rice is regulated by complex interaction of different factors. True factor is the storage of the grain. Production is one of the factors. Supply of money is one of the main factors which dictates the price. If the supply of money overrides the production , then the price will increase automatically. In the last few years the money supply increase in Bangladesh haphazardly. Addition of income to this created a one-eyed trend in the market. The price of rice may not fall suddenly. To supplement the loss of farmers, the price of rice is fixed at Tk 28/kg which is 25% more than the production cost. The bumper production of potato over the years. We need better storage for potatoes.
All this indicates that there is nothing to be worried about the availability of food grains in our country. The rate of production of grains is more than the rate of increase of population in the country.

He opined that it is possible to export excess rice by taking well-balanced steps. It would be a blessing if Bangladesh can able to transform its weakness into strength in present situation of world market.

The real fact is that over the last three decades the distribution has been affected grossly and was not given proper attention. At one time there was good distribution system in our country- the rationing system. This system had been withdrawn for our obligation to the free market economy. This rationing system may be reintroduced by targeting specific buyers groups. These groups are already identified in Bangladesh where extensive data are available. Ultra-poor, VGP-VGF groups, older citizens, poor widows, abandoned women, landless labor, workers of industries, private or public companies under an income level, head of the workless families, poor freedom fighters may be considers for this. The inclusion process must be extremely transparent.

An ordinary citizen

Link: Food Situation in Bangladesh: Severe shortage or fragile self-sustainability by Dr. Sadat Hussain ( in Prothom Alo)

Note: I could not avail the English version of the article which would make my task easy.

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