Bangladesh food

Falling wheat production raises food security concerns

| Update:
08 Jan 2022 21:42:46

Production of wheat, Bangladesh’s second staple, fell by about 20 percent as demand swelled by more than 100 percent, pushing up import spending and food security concerns.

The yawning imbalance was created within a decade, evidently as wheat consumption increased dramatically with changing dietary habits and population growth, while the area under cultivation declined.

Cereal production was recorded at 1.08 million tonnes in FY21, up from 1.30 million tonnes in FY 2014, according to data from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).

Imports have increased to 6.0-7.0 million tons, worth $ 1.4 billion to $ 2.0 billion, in recent years, according to official statistics.

However, wheat production has stagnated between 1.0 and 1.08 million tonnes over the past five years, according to the government’s statistical agency.

“The area and production of wheat have gradually declined as farmers turn to alternative crops that offer higher economic returns, such as corn, potato, vegetables or Boro rice,” the Minister said. Chairman of the Foundation for Agrarian Research, Bangladesh (ARF), Prof. MA Hamid.

He noted that the fungal disease (wheat borer) which is taking a heavy hit in several districts between FY’15 and FY’17 has also created fear among farmers about the cultivation of the crop.

“Although the intensity of the disease has decreased considerably in recent years, farmers are still not interested,” he says.

The agricultural researcher adds: “Cereal land has fallen to just 0.3 million hectares in recent years, down from 0.46 million hectares ten years ago. The Ministry of Agriculture will need to set a strategic target for wheat production.

Agricultural economist Dr Md Akteruzzaman said a policy should be developed to raise the area under wheat crops to its previous stage in the next few years, and then a further increase in production could be considered.

Government agencies, especially the Wheat and Maize Research Center (BWMRI), the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), as well as local extension agents will need to work intensively with farmers to boost crop production. wheat, he adds.

He noted that the southern regions had enough land for which a target should be set to bring at least 0.5 million hectares of land to wheat cultivation by adopting salinity tolerant crops.

He mentions that the recent world price of wheat exceeded $ 325 per tonne to reach a ten-year high, which has also had a severe impact on the local market, as recent prices for wheat products are 25 to 40 percent higher than a year. There are.

The rise is hurting consumers – in this time of phenomenal price increases locally and globally, in part due to production and supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Economist and value chain expert Professor Golam Hafeez Kennedy predicts demand for wheat will exceed 10 million tonnes over the next five years, following the current trend in eating habits as well as rising prices. wheat products.

He said the government should define a specific wheat production strategy to minimize its import costs from the country’s food security perspective.

Exports of wheat products, which now represent $ 280 million, should be further maximized to generate a good yield.

BWMRI chief executive Dr Golam Faruq said the institute, along with the Agricultural Extension Department (DAE) and other development partners, is working with farmers to encourage them to grow wheat.

Free fertilizers, quality seeds and training were provided to farmers through 2,500 demonstrations.

His organization has also provided more than 0.3 million fact sheets to farmers so that they can take precautions and take initiatives to prevent the blast scourge.

He adds that organizations such as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have also helped distribute 12,000 tonnes of quality wheat seeds to farmers for free.

According to the Food Ministry, the country imported 6.7 million tonnes of wheat for $ 1.44 billion in FY’20 against 3.1 million tonnes in FY’14.

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