The poor and low-income groups continue to suffer from price hike of essentials, especially rice, because of shortfall in production caused by prolonged floods and the inept food management by the government.
Experts said that production shortfall would hurt the economic growth and eroded purchasing power of 24.3 per cent of the country’s population still living on less than $1.5 daily income.
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistic on Thursday revealed that overall food production in the country dropped year-on-year by 9.43 lakh tonnes in the past financial year due to floods.
Rice production alone declined by 9.04 lakh tonnes in the year as Boro production was severely affected by early flash floods in haor areas.
Wheat production also declined by 37,000 tonnes in the year compared with previous FY 2016.
While releasing the data at a briefing in the capital, statistics and information division secretary KM Mozammel Hoq said that overall rice production stood at 3.38 crore tonnes in FY 17 which was 3.47 crore tonnes in FY 16.
The losses of crop caused supply shortage and pushed up the price of rice by Tk 20 per kilogram in the local market since August 2017.
The food ministry tried to increase supply by importing rice from neighbouring countries while the National Board of Revenue slashed the import duty on rice drastically to rein the price hike of rice.
The steps hardly helped in bringing down the price of rice at expected level, the experts said.
Agricultural economist Jahangir Alam Khan blamed the inept food management by the government for supply shortage of rice.
He said that the food ministry could not foresee the damage of crops and its consequence against the backdrop of plummeting food reserve in the public depots.
Jahangir, also former Bangladesh Agricultural Economists Association president, said that the government did not have sufficient amount of food grain in its stock and failed to intervene in local markets.
The rice price hike and its impacts on other consumer goods over the past several months affected the common people badly and benefitted the middlemen, said former Bangabandhu Agricultural University agronomy professor Abdul Hamid.
He criticised the government policy on food management saying that it benefited millers not the growers.
Experts said that the country’s efforts to alleviate poverty would also suffer because of shortfall in food production.
Already the rate of poverty reduction has slowed down because of decreasing firm outputs, they said.
The Household Income and Expenditure Survey, released by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in October, showed that the yearly average rate of poverty reduction slowed down to 1.2 per cent in 2010-2016 from 1.7 per cent in 2005-2010 while the inequality index increased to 0.483 in 2016 from 0.458 in 2010.
Former adviser to interim government Mirza Azizul Islam said that the slowdown in poverty reduction and widening gap between rich and poor happened because of shortfall in agricultural production.
The poor, still depending on agriculture, are mostly affected because of decline in agriculture productively.
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