Food Security in Bangladesh: Present and Future Challenges

sem_foodsecurity_1A special seminar on “Food Security in Bangladesh: Present and Future Challenges” organized by Institute of Microfinance (InM), was held at PKSF auditorium, PKSF Bhaban, Agargaon, Sher-E-Bangla nagar, on 1 April, 2008. Dr. Wahiduddin Mahmud, Chairman of InM chaired the seminar. Dr. Mahabub Hossain, executive director of BRAC addressed the seminar. Professor M.A. Baqui Khalily, Executive Director of InM also spoke on the occasion.

The event received much attention with attendance of distinguished scholars, high government officials, members of international organigations, policy makers and practitioners.

As a keynote presenter, Dr. Mahabub Hossain said that the immediate food crisis is alarming. Doubling of the food prices within one year has seriously eroded the capacity of the poverty stricken households’ access to staple food. He mentioned that the main reasons for rising food price are the global rise of oil and food prices, and underestimation of actual amount of imports. Thailand and India are the leading countries, which influence prices of food items either by restricting export or raising prices.

Bangladesh is always importing rice more than what official statistics say. People who spend more than 50% of their income on food items are severely affected because of the rise of food prices. In his speech he stated that the continuation of open market sale, building up of a reasonable stock of food items through import using foreign exchange reserves, and spread of comprehensive safety-net programs can minimize the short run food crisis, although it cannot be eliminated immediately. Dr. Mahabub Hossain also mentioned that we should achieve self-sufficiency in staple food production. Besides, the government must increase capacity to operate a subsidized food distribution system, fertilizer market and, thereby, stabilize prices.

Adoption of hybrid rice, use of quality seeds, reduction of yield gaps through better crop management, and efficient operation of input markets were mentioned as possible medium-term measures to solve the food crisis. And finally he said that the upward trend of food prices would continue up to 2012 and it is the beginning of the end of availability of low price food in the world market. The alternative for the government is to invest more in research and modernization of cultivation methods.

Dr. Wahiduddin Mahmud, emphasizing the present and future importance of food security in Bangladesh, said that because of global rise of food prices and embargo on export of food items imposed by the main exporting countries raised the domestic price of food. He also said that the syndicate formed by the main exporting countries is more liable for soaring food prices than the domestic syndicate. He mentioned that the domestic factors that are liable for soaring food prices are lack of proper management of food distribution, inefficient market mechanism, inconsistent information of actual and estimated demand for food and that the actual demand for food is more than estimated. Finally, he concluded that because of continuous rise in oil and food prices in the world market, the food crisis problem is unavoidable; therefore, in order to minimize the problem, we have to increase people’s income or achieve self-sufficiency in food production.