Although the UN has warned that protective measures against the coronavirus could jeopardize food security around the world, experts said Bangladesh would likely not face such a problem if the government could guarantee access to the world. population to food because it has a sufficient food supply.
They also said the government should not be content with its huge stockpile of food as it has a great challenge to ensure its availability at the doorsteps of affected people through various social safety net programs and a system of food rationing, and keep the prices of basic necessities affordable. through appropriate intervention in the market with the aim of ensuring food security.
According to experts, the government’s measures to provide food aid to the populations are not sufficient as millions of people involved in the informal sector have found themselves temporarily unemployed with the gradual loss of their purchasing capacity due to the closure of economic activities.
They also warned that food security will not be ensured even after obtaining an adequate volume of food grains, as the system may not guarantee its availability in every nook and cranny, always within the limits of the purchasing capacity of all.
Contacted, Sarwar Mahmud, the Directorate General (DG) of Food, said the country is not expected to face a food crisis even if the coronavirus situation prevails for a long time due to sufficient stock of food grains, including rice, wheat, potato and others. essential products.
“We are not worried about food security since Bangladesh is not a food deficit country. We have an abundant production of Aman while we also expect an impressive production of Boro rice, ”he added.
The CEO said they have around 14 metric tons of rice and 3 lakh metric tons of wheat, while rice traders, millers, wholesalers and farmers have more stocks of food grains than the government. . “A lot of people have also accumulated food for fear of the food crisis. Thus, our stock of food grains is sufficient to meet the country’s demand for more than a year.
In addition, he said that Boro’s harvest will start just after a month, which will further increase the stock of food grains.
Agriculture Secretary Md Nasiruzzaman said the coronavirus is having no impact on Bangladesh’s agricultural sector and they don’t believe the country’s food security will be at stake if the corona situation continues.
“We have an exceptional production of Aman and Aush. We will also have had a good production of Boro. We have produced almost every crop and every vegetable this season far more than we did last year. Thus, we will not be faced with any food crisis, whatever the situation, ”he said.
Nasir said farmers produced around 23 metric tons of lakh onions last year while they expect it to be over 25 metric tons lakh this year. “We got over 1 crore metric tonnes of potatoes last year while farmers produced about 1.09 crore metric tonnes from the crop this year against local demand of 70,000 metric tonnes.”
In addition, he said, farmers this year also produced more than 5,000 metric tons of vegetables more than last year. “Farming activities are not affected in the midst of the coronavirus shutdown, as farmers generally work while maintaining social distancing. Most of our crops, except Boro paddy, jute and maize, have already been produced. So there is no reason to worry about a food crisis.
In a recent press colleague, Minister of Commerce Tipu Munshi said the government has sufficient stock of food grains and daily household items.
“There is no possibility of a food shortage as the government has stored about 40 percent more goods this year than last year,” he said.
The minister said 2.6 lakh tonnes of pulses were imported in 2018-19 fiscal year, while 2.1 lakh tonnes of pulses had already been imported in the past seven months.
He said they also imported enough edible oil and onions to meet local demand for these items.
Speaking to UNB, former interim government financial adviser Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam said the country may not face a food crisis as the stock appears to be sufficient to cope with the situation. coronaviruses. “But the main concerns are whether people will have access to food or whether food will be available to people at affordable prices.”
He said people’s purchasing power is declining with the suspension of most economic activities to prevent the virus. “In addition, many people have lost their sources of income and find themselves temporarily unemployed. It is therefore the main challenge to provide them with food by expanding social safety net programs.
Renowned economists have said the government needs to step up food aid primarily for day laborers and those involved in the informal sector alongside BGF and WHO programs for the poor to ensure food security for all citizens.
He said the government announced a Tk 5,000 crore stimulus package for the RMG sector, but did not specify any for those engaged in the informal sector, which is the source of 85 percent of the economy. total employment in the country.
Mirza Aziz said the rich should come forward and companies should use their CSR funds to support those affected alongside government to ensure food security.
Professor Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished member of the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said Bangladesh is in a better position than other countries affected by the coronavirus in terms of food production and food stock. “But food security doesn’t just mean having adequate food grains. The good distribution of food, the availability of food and the purchasing capacity of people imply the concept of food security.
He said nearly one basic day laborer has lost his job while the overwhelming majority of the 2.70 million people in the informal sector have become temporarily unemployed and are gradually losing their purchasing capacity. “The government should look at this issue so that this large number of people can have food. “
In addition, Mustafiz said, many people have returned to their villages, but they have no income now. “So the government needs to introduce a food rationing system alongside strengthening other programs under the social safety net. Food security will be ensured when people have access to food.
He said the government must also remain vigilant and strengthen market surveillance so that unscrupulous businessmen cannot create an artificial food crisis by taking advantage of the situation.