The Constitution of Bangladesh (Article 15) recognises the fundamental responsibility of the state to secure to its citizens the provision of the basic necessities of life including food. Besides that Article 18 states that the state is obligated to regard the raising of the level of nutrition and improvement of public health as among its primary duties. So food security for all as one of the fundamental rights of the citizens has been enshrined in the Constitution of the country. In idealistic proposition ‘food security’ exists when all people, at all times, can enjoy access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to maintain healthy and productive lives (1996 World Food Summit).
Commendable Increase in cereal production
Bangladesh has managed to triple its rice production since its independence, from 10 million Metric Ton (MT) in 1971 to over 32 million MT today. Astonishingly, 8.44 million hectare of the land are irrigated, which is over 7 times more than in 1990 (Bangladesh Agriculture Statistics, 2013). Modern varieties have been introduced on 75% of the total rice cropped area. Bangladesh is now world’s sixth largest producer of rice which accounts for 77% of agricultural land use (irri.org, 2013).
Among cereals, the primary position is occupied by rice with about 80 percent of the total arable land is dedicated to rice cultivation. Thus rice boasts to be the primary crop for Bangladesh’s entire agricultural sector and is also the staple item in Bangladeshi diets. Rice supply in 2015 is expected to be in the range of 31.2 to 35.2 million tons, and it is likely to grow to 39 million tons by 2030. It is projected that Bangladesh will be able to supply its own cereal grain till 2020 (http://www.rjoas.com/issue-2014-01/article_04.pdf).
Met MDG Hunger Target in spite of Constraints
Despite a spectacular increase in food production, Bangladesh has faced persistent challenges in achieving food security due to (a) natural disasters and consequent crop losses; (b) fluctuations in food prices caused by volatility in the international markets; (c) failure to steady maintenance of domestic stocks; (d) inept monitoring of markets to prevent syndication that creates an artificial scarcity of food items and increases prices; and (e) absence of income generating activities that could add to the purchasing power of poor people. In spite of these constraints, Bangladesh has already met the MDG hunger target.
Increase in Rice Purchasing Capacity
Based on wage data collected by WFP (World Food Programme), Year-on-year average agricultural daily wages for male labourers in the months of 2014 (latest available wage data from BBS is till March 2014) have increased by 5-8 percent. Rice purchasing capacity has improved in 2014 following decreasing trends in 2013 (WFP Bangladesh Food Security Monitoring Bulletin, Issue No.17, April-June 2014).
Food grain stocks: Opening public stock of food grain higher than in previous FY
The opening public stock of food grain for the FY 2014/15 was 1.15 million MT which has improved by around 20 percent from FY 2013/14 (WFP Bangladesh Food Security Monitoring Bulletin, Issue No.17, April-June 2014).
Food-based Social Safety Net Programs in Bangladesh
The government of Bangladesh uses two broad approaches to increase access to food, particularly for the poor: first, the short-run approach in which direct transfer of food or cash is provided through a number of programs which are known as social safety net programs and second, the long-run approach, through which the government designs policies, implements programs, and invests in development projects with a view of raising incomes of the poor and their capacity to acquire food through employment generating activities. i
There are approximately 27 food security and social safety net program in Bangladesh and currently nearly 2.2 percent of the GDP are allocated for safety nets and social protection. ii
Bangladesh has well designed food based social safety net programs for poor for ensuring their food security such as Test Relief, Open Market Sale (OMS), KABIKHA, Vulnerable Group Feeding, allowance for destitute women. The social safety net programs are also sometimes called as Public Food Distribution System (PFDS)- the main of purpose of which is to stabilize food grain market prices. iii
Bangladesh Fourth Top Fish Producer Country: FAO
According to a latest report of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Bangladesh is now the fourth major fish producing country in the world. Steady growth in inland fish production from 7.5 lakh metric tonnes to 35 lakh metric tonnes in last three decades helped Bangladesh achieve the status. iv
Bangladesh Statistics Bureau (BBS)’s latest economic census says that in the 2013-14 fiscal, the country produced approximately 3.46million tonnes of fish, of which about 2million tonnes were farmed. With the protection of hilsa fries and other initiatives, production of the country’s most popular fish hilsa has gone up from 52,000 tonnes to 350,000 tonnes. Besides that Fish exports increased 135 times. v
With prices of fish remaining within the reach of the common people, there has been a 100% increased in per head consumption of fish over the past 10 years. According to a survey of 2010, the annual per head consumption of fish in Bangladesh is 12kg. The people of Chittagong consume the most fish at an annual 17kg per head and the least is in Rangpur at 7.5kb per head. Annual fish consumption globally is 22.4kg per head. vi
Several government initiatives, including conservation of fries, setting up inland sanctuary, releasing fish fries in inland water bodies, setting up swamp nurseries and managing waterfowls, contributed to booming fish production in the country.
Vegetable revolution in Bangladesh: FAO
Bangladesh witnessed a revolution in vegetable production over the last decade. Proof of this is evident in the recently released FAO report. According to the report, Bangladesh has ranked third in the list of vegetables producing countries in the world.
Vegetable cultivation has increased fivefold. The agricultural ministry statistics show the country produced a total of 13.8 million tons of vegetables in 2013-14 while the growth rate marked a steady six percent yield in each of the last three years. vii
Currently, farmers cultivate 200 vegetable verities. Moreover, Bangladesh now boasts of producing 90% seeds leading to that surprising high yield.
In last year, the country’s overall export revenue marked 11.65 percent increase. Exports of vegetables and fruits jumped to 60 percent while earnings raised by 34% percent.
Years back, Bangladesh had to import potato form 20 countries in the past. Last year it exported 25 thousand tonnes of potato only to Russia.
Moreover, in the FAO report, Bangladesh leads the world in terms of expansion of cultivable lands. In the last years, the country saw a five per cent increase in arable lands.
The five-fold increase of vegetable production since independence has given birth to the hope of achieving nutrition security. Government efforts like providing high quality seeds, disseminating the knowledge of latest cultivation methods, allocating fertilizers have largely contributed to the success.
Our Achievements in Food Security
Bangladesh has made substantial progress in enhancing food security by increasing production of foodgrains, particularly rice, improving infrastructure, making food delivery to the poor more efficient and liberalizing agricultural input and output markets (removal of food rationing and abolishment of the monopoly in import and export of food grains). Rice has contributed most to self-sufficiency in foodgrain, currently accounting for 71 percent of the gross cropped area and for 94% of the food grain production.
Ensuring Food security in Bangladesh is dependent on agricultural production and agriculture sector. Currently, agriculture sector contributes one fifth percent to the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. The importance of agriculture sector has been reflected into Vision-2021. The development activities of government in agriculture sector are in the following:
• To take all kinds of action in expanding food sufficiency in order to ensure food security by 2013
• To increase subsidy on agricultural produces and to take necessary action to make accessible to agricultural products
• To ensure fair price of agricultural products
• To provide research tools that will help to expand agriculture modernization including genetic engineering development, new technology innovation and commercial agriculture development to face the globalization challenges
Moreover, after coming into power of current government, by the lead of honorable prime minister and agriculture minister, agriculture ministry and its divisions has taken some initiatives and steps to implement digital Bangladesh and achieve vision 2021 that are in the following:
• Food sufficiency achieved
• Seed production, restoration and supply
• Establish a largest seed growing farm in the country
• New Species developed
• Usage of drought tolerant new rice “Narika”
• Usage of super hybrid rice “SL-8H”
• Information revealed on Genome sequencing of Jute
• Price reduction and management of fertilizer
• Increasing irrigation by using surface water
• Agricultural mechanization
• Women empowerment
• Agricultural development in the southern region of Bangladesh
• E-agriculture or digital agricultural management and crop zoning map formulation
• Development of SAARC seed bank
• Formulation of National Agriculture Policy 2013
• Increasing agriculture loan
Food Laws and Policies in Bangladesh: Contributing Factors
There are many laws and policies on food security and safe food in Bangladesh. Recently Bangladesh has enacted the Safe Food Act, 2013 in order to ensure right to have safe food for protection of human life and health through control by coordination in food production, import, processing, storage, supply, sale and distribution. This Act establishes an institutional mechanism called ‘Bangladesh Safe Food Authority’ for this purpose (National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh, June 2014).
Right to safe water is an important element of the right to food. The Bangladesh Water Act, 2013 provides for coordinated development, management, exploration, distribution, use, and protection of water resources. It specifically states that all rights relating to water in superjacent, subsoil, sea water, rain water and water of atmosphere will be exercised by the State on behalf of the people. The Act establishes right to have safe water (ibid).
Apart from that, the Consumer’s Rights Protection Act, 2009 aims to establish institutional mechansims and for punishment for certain offences. Vitamin-A enriched edible Oil Act, 2013 aims to ensure availability of the Vitamin-A enriched edible Oil for all.
The National Food Policy (NFP) in 2006 was endorsed to ensure dependable and sustained food security for all. Recently, under this umbrella policy the National Food Policy Plan of Action (2008-2015) has been enacted to identify responsible actors (government and non-government) and suggest a set of policy targets and indicators for monitoring progress.
i. Amin & Farid, ‘Food Security and Access to Food: Present Status and Future Perspective’, A
paper presented in National Workshop on Food Security in Bangladesh, Dhaka, 19-20 October, 2005.
ii. Faruque Abdullah, 2014, From Basic Need to Basic Right: Right to Food in Context, Prepared for National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh
iv. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, FAO Report, 2014
vii. FAO Statistical Yearbook 2013: World Food and Agriculture
• Official Website of Ministry of Agriculture
• The Daily Star
• Official Website of FAO, Bangladesh
• Above mentioned research paper
• The Daily Prothom Alo