Food security ensured

Govt to increase stock capacity to 27 lakh MT by 2021

Braving all sorts of natural disasters like drought, heavy rain and flooding over the last few years, the country has now become self-reliant in food. As a consequence of various steps by the ruling Awami League (AL) in the last ten years, there is no food crisis in the country now, and ‘monga’ -- the yearly cyclical phenomenon of poverty and hunger in northern part -- has also gone away.

As a significant development took place in the country’s agriculture and fisheries and livestock sectors to ensure food security with the innovation of new technologies, the country does no longer need to depend on imports of basic food grains. Keeping in mind natural disasters like flood, drought, cyclone and tidal surge, the government has been constructing modern silos and food godowns to keep stock of food of 20 to 22 lakh metric tonnes or for 2 to 3 years so that the country doesn’t fall short of necessary food, according to food ministry high-ups.

“The government wants to boost stock up to 27 lakh metric tonnes by 2021. This target has been integrated both in the seventh five year plan and the vision 2021, so warehouses and silos are being constructed across the country,” Food Secretary Md Shahab Uddin told Bangladesh Post. He said Bangladesh is now self-sufficient in food production due to adoption of modern technology in the agriculture sector.

Shahab Uddin informed the food ministry is working for 100-percent implementation of the polls pledges made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. As per the prime minister’s directives, the food secretary said they, amid odds and challenges, are working to address all problems to ensure ‘public food distribution’ programme. Shahab Uddin also said the food storage never comes down 11-12 lakh MT.

The secretary said apart from the food ministry, other ministries concerned are also working to provide food to the poor. “The food ministry provides support during natural disasters like flood, draught etc. which has become one of the success stories of the government in terms of meeting the demands of poor people,” he added. “Media has also played a vital role in selecting beneficiaries for food distribution. At least 50 lakh families are getting 5-10 kg rice per month free of cost,” Shahab Uddin further said.

Replying to a query about media reporting on food distribution, he claimed there is no negative report in media in recent years regarding 'food friendly programme' of the government. “We have ensured transparency in food distribution. Earlier food storage could not be preserved for more than 6 months or one year as after that period food quality would start deteriorating in the silos. 

Now we have taken move to improve the capacity and standard of silos so that food can be stored for more than 2-2.5 years,” he said. Over the last three and a half decades the food security situation and its policy context in Bangladesh has undergone major changes.

But the country is globally fourth in rice production, third in both vegetables and fish production, eighth in potato production and seventh in mango production. Country’s current food grain stock capacity is now 21.18 lakh metric tonnes. Talking to reporters, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder said the country’s current food grain stock is over 15.30 lakh metric tonnes. He said the reserve was tallied on February 5 last while of the stock 1,349 tonnes were paddy, 13,53,442 tonnes were rice and 1,75,526 tonnes were wheat.

“We have 2,722 godowns for food grain and seven silos for wheat preservation across the country,” he said, adding the warehouses could preserve about 21.19 tonnes of grains at a time. Silos are being built to preserve food grain for a couple of years to meet the local demand as well as use it as backup to tackle any unwanted situation caused by natural calamities, according to the food ministry source.

The country’s researchers have invented flood-, drought- and salinity-tolerant rice varieties. Besides, under the modern food storage facilities project, eight steel made modern silos are now under construction at eight strategic places in Chattrogram, Ashuganj, Dhaka, Naryanganj, Madhumpur, Mymensingh, Barishal and Moheshwarpasa. 

In spite of food sufficiency, the government has chalked out a plan of importing four lakh metric tonne wheat and seven lakh metric tonne rice in the current 2018-19 fiscal to face the shortage caused by floods in different regions and flashfloods in haor.