- Driven by nutrition-sensitive factors and supportive agricultural practices, prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) dropped to 13% in 2019
- Bangladesh is the 1st among 11 countries producing Hilsa in the world and ranks 4th in the world and 3rd in Asia in Tilapia production
- Agricultural exports have recently achieved a noteworthy milestone by crossing the US $1 billion mark
- Within Open Market Sell (OMS) initiative, the cost of rice stands at BDT 15 per kilogram, while flour is priced at BDT 17 per kilogram
The global food supply grapples with a major setback as conflict between Russia and Ukraine leads to a reduced availability of crucial grains like Wheat and Barley. This has resulted in a worldwide food supply crisis. Fortunately, Bangladesh has managed to maintain its food safety standards relatively well, thanks to a boost in domestic production.
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In the last few years, Bangladesh has demonstrated commendable success in enhancing the food and nutrition security of its citizens. The growth rate in food production now exceeds population growth, and the self-sufficiency achieved in rice production in 1998-99 remains both sustained and stable. Striking progress in reducing poverty, supported by continuous economic growth, has not only improved food access but also propelled Bangladesh to attain lower-middle-income country status in 2015.
Driven by nutrition-sensitive factors and supportive agricultural practices, prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) dropped to 13% in 2019, paralleled by reduced food insecurity measured by the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES). Child stunting, reflecting chronic malnutrition, decreased by a third in the last two decades, attributed to strong links between household assets, improved parental education, and positive child growth outcomes.
The nation’s ability to maintain food security throughout the COVID-19 pandemic can be largely credited to significant government investments aimed at safeguarding farmers. Restrictions were relaxed specifically for farmers and the agricultural supply chain. Subsequently, following the emergence of the post-pandemic global crisis, the government actively stepped into the market, offering production support and facilities.
One and a Half Decade of Transformative Measures Towards Food Security
Substantial strides have been made in Bangladesh to fortify food security, marked by increased food grain production, notably in rice, improved infrastructure, more efficient delivery of food to those in need, and the liberalization of agricultural input and output markets through the elimination of food rationing and the dismantling of monopolies in the import and export of food grains.
In the pursuit of the 50% increase in food grain production by 2030, the Government of Bangladesh, as outlined in the 8th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), is focused on expanding cultivated land by 10%, improving irrigation facilities by 15%, and encouraging the utilization of high-yield seed varieties and fertilizers.
Achieving nutrition security is now a hopeful prospect, thanks to the increase in vegetable production since independence. The export of vegetables has now reached a point where it involves more than 70 different types and agricultural exports have recently achieved a noteworthy milestone by crossing the US $1 billion mark.
The government opted to slash import duties and fees on non-fragrant parboiled and white rice, setting the new rate at 15.25 percent in December, 2022. Simultaneously, they urged commercial banks to provide letters of credit to rice and wheat importers with a minimal margin.
Bangladesh is the 1st among 11 countries producing Hilsa in the world and ranks 4th in the world and 3rd in Asia in Tilapia production. Fish prices remaining accessible to the masses have led to a twofold increase in individual fish consumption over the last 10 years.
Recognizing the right to safe water as integral to the right to food, the Bangladesh Water Act of 2013 lays out a framework for the coordinated development, management, exploration, distribution, utilization, and protection of water resources.
To attain its nutrition and food security objectives, Bangladesh has recognized the pivotal role of agricultural Research and Development (R&D). The government has recently intensified its commitment to research by allocating Tk 2,100 crore in 2010 and increasing it to Tk. 3,300 crore in 2022, demonstrating a noteworthy 57.4% surge in the last 15 years.
Also, food safety authority offices have been set up in 64 districts to strengthen the work of food safety supervision.
A Closer Look at the Government’s Strides in Ensuring Food Security
The government extends food assistance to government employees on fixed incomes and individuals with low incomes through various channels within the Public Food Distribution System (PFDS). This initiative involves the distribution of food grains through monetized channels, including subsidized programs such as Open Market Sale (OMS), Fair Price Card, Essential Priority, Food for Work, Test Relief, Vulnerable Group Feeding, and Vulnerable Group Development and Gratuitous Relief.
Through the Open Market Sell (OMS) program, the government offers various food products to individuals with low incomes. Commencing in 2009, the government has been providing affordable rice and flour to low-income citizens. A substantial quantity of 2.20 million metric tons of rice and 1.26 million metric tons of wheat has been sold by the government in the open market, allowing individuals with low incomes to access these essential goods at a nominal expense. Within this initiative, the cost of rice stands at BDT 15 per kilogram, while flour is priced at BDT 17 per kilogram.
How Bangladesh has developed in food security over the yearsBangladesh has made significant strides in food security over the years, with strategic agricultural policies, technological advancements, and community-focused initiatives contributing to improved production and distribution, ensuring a more resilient and food-secure nation.
In 2010, the government introduced a novel program “Food Friendly Initiative”, issuing food assistance cards for the first time to support ultra-poor and low-income individuals. This initiative enables people to purchase essential food items at affordable prices through the food assistance card. Initially, 7.7 million families from various levels—metropolitan areas, districts, sub-districts, and unions—were enlisted for the program.
Additionally, the Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) program to offer aid to those impacted by natural disasters and the Gratuitous Relief (GR) program aimed to support impoverished, distressed, and helpless individuals susceptible to calamities- were launched.
In conclusion, as the world grapples with geopolitical challenges and the resulting disruptions to global food supply chains, Bangladesh stands as a beacon of resilience and success in ensuring food security. Over the past one and a half decades, the nation has strategically implemented transformative measures, addressing not only immediate needs but also laying the groundwork for sustained growth.