Food production in Bangladesh set a new record at 3.47 crore tonnes in 2014-15 fiscal year with one percent higher yield over the previous year thanks to the government’s relentless efforts to achieve food sufficiency.
Although the experts and analysts say the country now produces enough grains (rice and wheat) to feed its entire 160 million people, concern remains about food security because reports from the rural areas say the foods still do not reach every vulnerable group of people.
So in urban areas, may people, especially the slum dweller and the floating people do not have access to stuffiest food. The experts and analysts blame it on poor market control and inefficient distribution system that has often been plagued by corruption and political indulgence.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, farmers reaped a record 1.91 crore tonnes of boro rice last season, enabling the country to log in its highest rice output and attain self-sufficiency in staple food. Overall, rice output stood at a total of 3.47 crore tonnes in fiscal 2014-15, up 1 per cent year-on-year.
The increased production, however, failed to bring smile on face of every farmer, who is compelled to sell rice at prices lower than production costs.
“It felt good to have higher crops, but ultimately it did not benefit me,” said Asadul Karim, a farmer in Dinajpur, a bordering district in the north.
His production costs were higher than the prices he was compelled to accept.
According to food ministry sources, one-fourth of the total population still face hunger and half of the total children under five years suffer from in malnutrition. They also say that more than 50 per cent food of the market is not safe.
Abdul Latif Mondol, former Secretary of the Food Ministry said, ‘there is no proper step from the government to ensure food security, though the government emphasise on food supply. Ensuring the food security is not possible by import based food supply.”
He also said, different reports of the government institutions say about low quality food spreading hugely in the market.
A recently published report of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) titled ‘The Global Food Security Index 2015’ said Bangladesh was in the ‘bottom row’ of countries in respect of food security.
It said Bangladesh was in 89th position in global food security index among 109 countries. Not only it, but also Bangladesh is in the lowest position among the South Asian countries and ranks 21 among the 22 countries in the Asia Pacific region. The total score of Bangladesh is 37.4 out of 100, 9 score points higher than last year.
The report says EIU has formulated the index on the basis of three topics -- purchase power, food availability and food quality and safety.
Dr Shamsul Alam, member of Planning Commission and President of Bangladesh Krishi Arthonity Somiti, said that the report of EIU was ‘confusing’. “Food production is increasing every year. As a result, ensuring the food supply has been possible.”
The purchasing power of Bangladesh people is increasing in ratio of 5 per cent of the common people in every year. So, there is no possibility of food lacking in the country.
The import of rice from India is helping rice prices decrease every week. According to the government-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) the price of coarse rice is decreasing by 4 per cent every week.
BRAC adviser and economist Mahbub Hossain said agriculture posted a record growth in 2009. The growth slid down in 2012 as rice prices decreased.
He apprehends that agriculture growth would stand at 3 per cent, decreasing by 1 per cent this year.
Farmers have to spend Tk 650 to Tk 700 per to produce maund (37 kgs) of boro rice and sell at Tk 420 to Tk 450 in the local market, posting loss of Tk 250.
The Food Department has already begun to procure 10 lakh tonnes of rice and 1 lakh tonnes paddy.
However, only 38,537 tonnes of rice has been procured in 26 days, despite no political chaos or hostile weather.
The frustrated farmers might be losing their enthusiasm if they continue to face losses, officials and traders warned. Country’s rice demand is 310, 00,000 tonnes per year. The farmers produced 3,44,60,500 tonnes rice during 2013-14 fiscal year while it was 150, 00,000 tonnes four decades ago, according to Department of agriculture Extension (DAE).
During the last two decades, potato production has increased by three times. Potato production was 3000,000 tonnes in the 90’s, which soared to 8950,000 tonnes lately. Production of wheat also increased. During the last two years, wheat production has increased by around 2 lakh tonnes to 1400,000 tonnes. Wheat production is expected to exceed 2178,000 tons this year.
Meanwhile, vegetable production has increased from 75, 00,000 tonnes to 1, 2100,000 tonnes in the last one decade.