AUTHOR: ANWAR ALI
United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has placed Bangladesh in a list of countries that require external assistance for food to brave "severe localised food insecurity". The list includes 45 countries, including nine Asian countries.
Economic constraints due to effects of Covid-19, monsoon floods and high prices of staple foods have worsened food security and resulted in increased need of import or humanitarian aid, FAO says.
The information was revealed in the quarterly global report of crop prospects and food situation, published yesterday by FAO's Markets and Trade Division of under Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture.
The report is said to be based on information available as of February 2021.
Despite the government's expansion of social safety net programmes, the report quoted official estimates indicating 30 percent of Bangladesh's total population was poor as of June 2020, compared to 21 percent in June 2019.
While poverty levels increased due to income loss and a decline in remittance caused by the pandemic, the country witnessed recurrent floods throughout 2020, causing damages to the agricultural sector and households, and aggravating food insecurity conditions.
Crop damages and increased demands led to soaring prices of rice, and prices in January 2021 reached its highest. It is more than 35 percent higher on a yearly basis since October 2017, constraining access to food.
Yet, the country has been hosting about 8,60,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, the report says.
The persistent price increases are attributed to stagnant production, limited imports and an upsurge in domestic demand due to Covid-19.
The country's 2020 aggregated output of cereals (rice paddy, coarse grains, wheat) was stagnant at 59.8 million tonnes, registering a mere 0.7 percent increase over the previous year, which is slightly above the country's five-year average production of 57.4 million tonnes.
This was due to bumper Boro and Aus harvests, offsetting Aman crop losses caused by floods in July and August 2020.
Bangladesh's total cereal import in 2018-19 was 7,666,000 tonnes, including 927,000 tonnes in food aid. It increased to 7,866,000 tonnes in 2019-20.
In 2020-21, Bangladesh needs a total cereal import of 9,454,000 tonnes from the international market, the report says quoting the country's official estimates.