FAO pulls for Dhaka amid global food crisis

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has put Bangladesh and four other Saarc nations on the list of 37 countries facing food crisis and requiring external assistance.
In the list released Monday, the FAO urged the governments and the international community to take immediate measures to help the poor countries hit hard by dramatic food price increases.
According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), food price inflation was spiralling up by over 11 percent every month from July to October this year. In the urban areas, this inflation rate was over 12 percent.
According to the latest data of Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), prices of most of the essential food items shot up by six percent to 116 percent over the last one year. Of them, price of the main essential item — rice — rose by 40 to 50 percent.
In this context, the FAO in a press release said, “FAO is calling for urgent action to provide small farmers in LIFDC (Low Income Food Deficit Countries) that depend heavily on food imports, with improved access to seeds, fertiliser and other inputs to increase, in particular, local crop production.
“Within countries, improved access to these inputs could be provided by issuing poor farmers with vouchers to buy seeds, fertiliser and other inputs for major staple crops, which should increase local food production. Such steps could help to alleviate the persistent threat of severe undernourishment of millions of people.”
The FAO noted that currently 37 countries are facing food crises due to conflicts and disasters. In addition, food security is being adversely affected by unprecedented price hikes of basic food, driven by historically low food stocks, droughts and floods linked to climate change, high oil prices and growing demand for bio-fuels. High international cereal prices have already sparked food riots in several countries.
It estimates that the total cost of imported food for the LIFDCs in 2007 will be around 25 percent higher than that in the previous year, surpassing $ 107 billion.
“Without support for poor farmers and their families in the hardest-hit countries, they will not be able to cope. Assisting poor vulnerable households in rural areas in the short term and enabling them to produce more food would be an efficient tool to protect them against hunger and undernourishment,” said FAO Director General Jacques Diouf.
The FAO listing shows that not only Bangladesh but also four other Saarc countries — Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Afghanistan– are facing severe food crisis.
Of them, Afghanistan’s food crisis stems from conflicts and floods. Nepal is suffering from market access problems and effects of conflicts and floods. Pakistan is facing after effects of the Kashmir earthquake, floods and cyclone, Sri Lanka that of the Tsunami, deepening conflicts and floods, and Bangladesh is facing the aftermath of floods and cyclone.
In Bangladesh, the livelihood of over 8.5 million people is adversely affected by the damage caused by the cyclone, FAO says.
According to the government’s estimates, the cyclone and two consecutive floods have caused a shortfall of 14 lakh metric tons (MT) of rice.
Estimates by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Brac show this figure could go up to 20 lakh MT.
Bangladesh usually imports around 20 lakh to 24 lakh MT of food grains a year. Because of the shortfall this year, the import will hover around 35 lakh MT.
And due to the global scarcity of food and lack of interest of exporting countries, Bangladesh is also facing problems with import. The government has decided to import food at higher prices.
This means that food prices will continue to rise in the coming months.TCB data show that price of higher grade rice like Nazirshail, now selling at Tk 33 to Tk 39 per kg, increased by 50 percent over the last one year. In the last one month, it increased by nine percent.
Medium quality rice like Paijam now sells at Tk 27 to Tk 29 per kg — up by 42.5 percent in the last one year. Its price shot up by 5.5 percent in the last one month.
The lowest grade rice like Chinese Irri is selling at Tk 25 – 27 a kg, showing a 40 percent price rise in a year. In the last one month, its price rose by 8.33 percent.
Price of atta also marked a similar rise — 46 percent — over the last one year, now selling at Tk 35 to Tk 38 per kg. Its price remained static in the last one month.
Edible soybean oil now sells at Tk 86 to Tk 88 per litre, up by 40 percent in a year. Palm oil is selling at Tk 74 to Tk 76 per litre, up by 53 percent.
Lentil (Mushur) now sells at Tk 60 to Tk 80 per kg, six percent higher than the price a year ago and potato is selling at Tk 24-27, up by 21 percent.
Price of onion marked a 116 percent hike in the last one year, and now sells at Tk 25 to Tk 40 per kg.

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