Healthy foods not affordable to Bangladesh’s majority population

Emran Hossain | Published: 15:58, Feb 14,2019


Guests hold copies of a report on safe food prepared by IFPRI and Gain during its launch at Lakeshore hotel in Dhaka on Wednesday. — New Age photo

High costs made healthy foods like vegetables and fresh fruits unaffordable to Bangladesh’s large number of consumers, experts said Wednesday during unveiling of EAT-Lancet Commission’s report.
They said that facing similar situation many counties across the world subsidize healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.
They advised the Bangladesh government to follow these countries.
Many countries imposed taxes on unhealthy foods to sensitize businessmen to produce and sell plant based foods as they were beneficial to humans as well as the environment, they said.
EAT-Lancet Commission defined healthy diet as a combination of protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts and milk, considering their impacts on health and environment.
More than 50 per cent of healthy diet should include vegetables and fruits, recommends the EAT-Lancet Commission.
It recommended curbing consumption of red meats across the world considering the adverse impacts of livestock rearing on the environment.
Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition country director Rudaba Khondker discussed recommendations of the EAT-Lancet Commission in the Bangladesh context.
She said that if the EAT-Lancet Commission recommendations were followed in Bangladesh each family would be required to spend 52 per cent of its income on fruits and vegetables.
She said even a majority of middle class families in Bangladesh would find it difficult to set aside 52 per cent of their monthly earning for buying vegetables and fruits.
She said that the government could consider providing 10 to 15 per cent subsidies on fresh fruits and vegetables.
She said that the government could consider providing the subsidies to three million small and medium entrepreneurs in food business to make them interested in the business of healthy foods.
Rudaba said that market intervention could play a significant role in influencing people’s dietary choices in Bangladesh where 96 per cent of the urban people and 87 per cent of the rural population procure foods from the market.
The EAT-Lancet Commission investigated into the patterns of food consumption across the world for recommending the healthy diet.
Norwegian Ambassador in Bangladesh Sidsel Bleken said that all the countries should act fast to achieve sustainable development goals by 2030.
She said that dietary practice in Bangladesh was very much in line with the recommendations of the EAT-Lancet Commission though ‘affordability’ remains the issue for the country.
According to global dietary database 2010 report vegetable consumption in Bangladesh was much higher compared to India, Pakistan and Indonesia.
The EAT-Lancet Commission emphasized on reorienting agricultural priorities for the production of environmentally sustainable nutrient-rich food from mono-culture of energy rich unsustainable foods.
The event was also attended by International Food Policy Research Institute country representative Akhter Ahmed, International Centre for Climate Change and Development director Saleemul Huq, Power and Participation Research Centre executive chairman Hossain Zillur Rahman and FAO senior nutritionist Lalita Bhattacharjee.

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