There is no end to the speculation about the food situation in the world after Covid- 19. Many people think that developing or least developed countries are more risky. The first of the basic human needs is food which has no alternative, so it is natural that there will be a lot of discussion, research, writing or politics about food.
Annual paddy production in Bangladesh is 375 lakh metric tons. Overall, the annual growth rate of paddy production is 3.2%, though the annual growth rate of paddy arable land is 0.31%. Behind this success is the joint contribution of the government, agronomists and especially the farmers. The per capita consumption of rice has been steadily declining at an annual rate of 0.7% due to changes in eating habits. The per capita daily consumption of rice has come down from 484.3 grams in the 1995-96 survey to 367.2 grams in 2016. If the population is estimated at 17 crore the annual demand for rice stands at 227 lakh 85 thousand metric tons. In Bangladesh, rice is not usually imported officially, but some special types of rice are imported privately, amounting to 30 lakh metric tons in 2017-18.
The combined production of food grains such as rice, wheat and maize in the country is about 415 lakh metric tons. It also produces about 100 lakh tons of potatoes, 45 lakh tons of fish, 62 lakh tons of meat, eggs, milk, fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, the average monthly demand for rice is 21 lakh tons and 252 lakh tons per annum. But there are other topics involved with rice. For example, about 24 lakh metric tons of rice is used in the industry every year, again about 12% i.e, about 45 lakh metric tons of food grains have to be removed from the list due to seeds, animal or bird food and perish or depletion etc. Then food shortages are not supposed to happen.
There are many issues involved with food security. First is agricultural production. There are issues of declining cultivable land, timely and quantitative availability of agricultural inputs, uninterrupted harvesting, collection and storage of crops, weather, natural calamities, pests, diseases, availability of agricultural labor, etc. Moreover fertilizer is an important component. Problems with any of these can disrupt agricultural production and cause food problems.
Most of the Boro paddy has already been harvested. The rest of the paddy has to be harvested and government support has to be continued. It is learned that the government has decided to purchase 20 million Mana Boro paddies from all over the country at the rate of Tk 1,040 per mana of paddy this season. In this case, it is essential to take plod that the middlemen do not take agricultural cards from the farmers or in any way hinder them from getting the price fixed by the government. This is a difficult task because the farmers do not have their own cooperative societies or any organization through which they can deliver paddy to the collection center. In this case, surveillance needs to be strengthened so that farmers are not deprived of fair prices.
The target of aus paddy is 36 lakh metric tons, which is less but that time is very necessary for the farmers of those areas where aman paddy is produced. Aus cultivation requires less water irrigation, in which case government incentives can be fruitful. It is necessary to ensure that farmers can sell paddy directly to the government in the coming Aus as well as Aman paddy harvesting seasons. The capacity of food go downs in the country is about 21 lakh metric tons. Two projects are under implementation for the construction of 164 food warehouses with a capacity of six and a half lakh metric tons this year. These need to be implemented on time and more warehouses need to be built. There is a system of food storage for four-five months for social security, rationing, implementation of various development programs. In order to deal with disasters, calamities, famines or global epidemics, it is essential to have warehouses with a capacity of eight to ten lakh tons of food grains. Poultry rearing is severely affected by corona virus. It will take some time to rebuild this sector. Cutting of potatoes, wheat and maize should be done in time. Considering the situation, it is better not to export potatoes, the price of vegetables, milk and eggs needs to be kept normal. Strict vigilance should be exercised to ensure that millers, dealers, traders or intermediaries do not create abnormal conditions by hoarding. As agricultural crops are seasonal and perishable, it is essential to strengthen the processing and storage of agricultural products. On the one hand, it can ensure year-round supply with fair prices to the farmers and on the other hand, the risk of high import prices can be avoided. In this case, a conducive environment can be created for private entrepreneurs to come forward with the government. Even if there is sufficient food stock, if the common man does not have the opportunity or right to take it as required, then there is no benefit in it. When other sectors of the economy collapse, employment declines and people’s incomes fall, or purchasing power declines, their ability to consume food will decrease temporarily. So for the provision of assurance to maintain the capacity of the people, it is essential to take various ancillary steps. If this capacity is not maintained, the government will have to strengthen the social security fence as well as expand subsidies, food for work, relief, aid, etc.
As a result of industrialization, urbanization or development of communication system, the amount of cultivable land in the country is decreasing. Crop density in agriculture has not increased much; it is still close to 200. Recently, the Prime Minister also called for bringing all the lands of the country under cultivation in view of the Corona situation so that food production can be increased.
The author is a student of Rajshahi University