A question of food security | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 04, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2010


A question of food security

Measures needed for steady foodgrain supply

The food ministry is preparing to stock up granaries with quick imports. This preparation is due to delayed monsoon and less-than-average rainfall that is casting uncertainties over the expected output in Aman production in the southern districts. It is indeed worrying that the foodgrains stock has almost halved over the past year. It was 7.19 lakh tonnes in August 2010, compared to 13.75 lakh tonnes in the same period last year; and within the time limit set for the procurement drive, the government could buy only 4.66 lakh tonnes of rice. That is what the food ministry noted in a report to the purchase committee a few months ago.
There is no doubt that a completely free market economy would bring about dissonant results for a developing country. In this regard, importing food is not highly encouraged in Bangladesh because it drains the country of foreign exchange. It also makes the country susceptible to the whims of international food trade. But in several circumstances it becomes necessary and sometimes the government has no alternatives before it.
In recent years, there has been a shortfall in production of foodgrains in several countries, the changing pattern of climate being one of the reasons. It is obvious that food price hikes in the international market are another problem. In the case of Bangladesh, we are aware that a huge amount of crops were destroyed during the floods of 2007 and 2008. Even then, the government did not have to import foodgrains for those periods. There was no scarcity, but the poor could not afford to buy food at high prices owing to obvious drawbacks in fair distribution and in other procurement processes.
The preservation and management of food products are vital measures for ensuring food security. The government needs to build higher capacity silo facilities at different border areas, which will help to maintain a strategic reserve of essential foodgrains. Even after a bumper production of crops we have observed the grievance of farmers due to wastage. This is also to ensure that the farmers receive a fair price of the produce; reasonable prices should also be maintained through a monitoring process so that consumers, particularly the lower income groups, can buy food at an affordable price. If necessary, open market sales (OMS) should be resumed.
Keeping in mind the problems consequent upon a reduced production of foodgrains in a highly populated country, we need to go for climate resilient technology for irrigation to increase domestic production. The government also needs to initiate fair credit availabilities, subsidy facilities and development of communication and market. Public investment is indispensable in these areas in order to guarantee food security.

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