Recipe for food security as prices rise | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 23, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 23, 2011

Recipe for food security as prices rise

Analysts suggest increased farm output, cooperation and information sharing as CPD opens South Asia Economic Summit in Dhaka

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Finance Minister AMA Muhith delivers his speech at the inauguration of the Fourth South Asia Economic Summit at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in Dhaka yesterday. The Centre for Policy Dialogue has organised the two-day high-profile meet to discuss some key challenges in the region. Photo: STAR

South Asian nations must engage in more regional cooperation in agriculture and share information and technology to boost production to make a truly food secured region, speakers at an international discussion said yesterday.
The eight Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) nations should take common actions to ensure food security at national and regional levels, they said.
They made the comments at a working session of the Fourth South Asia Economic Summit on "Food Security in South Asia" at the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the city.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) organised the two-day summit ending today.
Abid Suleri, executive director of Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Pakistan, who chaired the session, said more regional cooperation, particularly in the areas of research and information and technology, would be crucial to allay concerns over food insecurity.
"Inter-country pricing of cereal products has to be settled during any crisis. Saarc Food Bank must be made effective with promised contribution from the members," he said.
Aynul Hasan, chief of development policy section of UN-ESCAP, said the past five years have been like a rollercoaster ride for the global food markets. "There is considerable risk that prices will continue to increase if the eurozone situation improves and if the recovery of the global economy gains traction again."
He said countries that are moving faster with their structural transformation should provide continued support for crop and rural development, instituting a new and knowledge-intensive 'Green Revolution'.
Mahabub Hossain, executive director of BRAC, Bangladesh, said achieving food security requires coordinated action on the fronts such as increasing food availability, faster agricultural growth, less restrictive trade and more efficient markets for food for increasing purchasing capacity of the consumers.
He said the region has not progressed much in nutrition issues.
Khadija Haq, president of Mahbub ul Haq Development Centre, Pakistan, said Saarc Food Bank was established in 2007 but it is yet to be operational with adequate reserve," she said.
Prof Bishwambher Pyakuryal, chairman of Nepal Economic Association, said the reason for high food prices are supply-side shortfalls, rise in demand beyond expectation, and reduction in the level of stocks.
Prof S Mahendra Dev, director of Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, India, said there should a focus on small farmers to increase productivity.
"Water management is going to a crucial point in the region."
Biplove Choudhary, programme specialist of UNDP Asia Pacific Regional Centre, Bangkok, said public sector-funded agricultural research is a must. "We also have to learn from each other."
Uttam Deb, principal scientist (economics) for International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, said the member countries should strengthen cooperation through joint projects and development of new varieties, hybrids and breeds to enhance food production.
Akram H Chowdhury, a lawmaker from Bangladesh, said the poor farmers must be given much-needed technological support and fund at low interest rates to encourage them to grow more food.
MA Sattar, director general of Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture, said Saarc is not working efficiently in its current structure. "We could include neighbouring countries like Myanmar to make it stronger in our fight against food crisis."
AKMA Quader, a former professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said food prices in South Asia are controlled mostly by the speculators. "This issue should be addressed."

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