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Bangladesh: Low Dependency on Agricultural Products Prompts Food Security Fears

Bangladesh is predominantly an agricultural country. A large number of population are dependent on agriculture. Currently the net contribution to GDP in this sector is 19.1%.

Recent studies reveal [bn] a decreasing trend on the dependency on agriculture and agricultural products in the country. The employment in agriculture sector is also decreasing. The last four decades saw a tremendous rise in the industry and service sectors, which is the main cause.

Currently almost 48% of population are dependent on agriculture. Only five years ago it was 60%. The employment in agriculture sector has decreased by 20%. The number of landless people have risen to an alarming 9%, which interprets to about 15 million people.

Bangladesh is known to be an agricultural country, however the dependency on agriculture is decreasing day by day. Image from Wikipedia by Balaram Mahalder. CC: BY-NC

In recent years the price of agricultural products has risen. Manure, Water for irrigation, electricity and diesel all have become expensive and as a result the cost of produces has increased. But the farmers are not getting enough profit from the crops as the price of produces are not rising proportionately. They are sometimes making loss.

Blogger Russel [bn] at Amar Blog wonders how these farmers are still in the agricultural business:

গত ১ মাসের বাজার দর বিবেচনা করলে দেখা যাচ্ছে গত এক মাসে বাজারে গরুর মাংসের গড় মূল্য ছিলো ২৭০ টাকা, সয়াবিন তেলের গড় মূল্য ছিলো ১৩০ টাকা থেকে ১৪০ টাকা, যে দেশে কৃষককে এক কেজি গরুর মাংস কিনতে আধা মন ধান বেচতে হয় সে দেশের মানুষ যে এখনও কৃষি কাজ করে এটাই আশ্চর্যজনক।

যে দেশে এক কেজি তেল কিনতে গোলা থেকে ৭ কেজি ধান দিতে হয় কৃষককে সে দেশে কৃষকেরা এখনও ধান উৎপাদনের মাহাত্ম্য দেখাচ্ছেন এটাই আশ্চর্যজনক।

If we compare the market rates of the past one month, the average price of a kilogram of beef was BD Taka 270 ($3.4), A liter Soybean oil BDT 140 ($1.75). In a country where a farmer has to sell half maund (20 kilograms) of paddy to buy a kilogram of beef, it is surprising that farmers are still able to survive.

Food insecurity will further worsen the lives of the population who lives under $1 a day. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (4/8/2012).

The question of food security arises because of the decrease in agricultural lands and the dependency on agriculture. Because of low purchasing power many people cannot buy all the food they need. Many are concerned that if these farmers cease to contribute in this sector and switch to other jobs then what is going to happen.

Economic Intelligence Unit, an influencial magazine from UK, published an index on Food security, where Bangladesh stands at the 81st position with a score of 34.6 out of 100. You can have an idea from this about the status of food security in Bangladesh.

The 2009 report by World Food Program (WFP) and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) says that almost 35 million people in this country have a deficit of 1805 calories per day because of food shoratage and low food intake. According to Bangladesh Development Research Institute almost 50% of population face food shortage at one time of year, and 7% of population cannot secure 3 meals a day. Only a quarter of the population get enough nutrition all the year round.

On the other hand a lot of food are being wasted in the country for lack of proper and timely storage and poor marketing. Blogger Ek Theke Aat (1 to 8) [bn] at Somewhereinblog.net comments:

কৃষিতে আধুনিক কলাকৌশল ও সুষ্ঠু কৃষি বিপণন ব্যবস্থা, সংরক্ষণ ও পরিবহনের অভাবে প্রতিবছর প্রায় ২৫-৩০ ভাগ কৃষিপণ্য অপচয় হচ্ছে। আধুনিক কৃষি ব্যবস্থাপনার অভাবে প্রতিবছর যে পরিমাণ কৃষিপণ্য অপচয় হচ্ছে তার আনুমানিক বাজার মূল্য অন্তত ৪ হাজার কোটি টাকা।

Almost 25-30% agricultural produces are being wasted because of lack of modern production method, poor marketing, lack of storage and poor transport management. The loss due to lack of modern agricultural management is almost 40 Billion Taka ($500 million).

To improve food security more investment in agriculture sector is needed. More and more agriculture based industries are required for effective use of agricultural produces. The government has taken steps to disburse loans for agriculture based industries and storage facilities. According to Bangladesh Bank in 2011-12 financial year there has been an increase of loans of 30 billion Taka ($370 million) which is about a 24% increase from the previous year.

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