Food Minister Qamrul Islam speaks at a workshop on 'Eliminating Hunger and Malnutrition: Are Sustainable Solutions in Sight?' at a city hotel on Wednesday. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), USAID and Compact 2025 jointly organised the event. — FE Photo
Food Minister Qamrul Islam said on Wednesday the government has imported enough rice to tackle any supply shortage of the staple food, and now there is no rice crisis in the country.
"Rice crisis was created for a short period this year due to early flood. But the government has promptly imported adequate rice to handle the situation. Now there is no crisis," he said while speaking at a programme.
He said early flood in the Haor areas caused loss of around one million tonnes of rice. Later, fresh flood caused loss of another 1.5 to 2.0 million tonnes of rice. But the government could beat the crisis despite the production shortage.
He was speaking at a workshop - 'Eliminating Hunger and Malnutrition: Are Sustainable Solutions in Sight?' - jointly organised by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), USAID and Compact 2025 at a city hotel.
The food minister also came down on those who criticised high rice price at the workshop.
He said if the cost of rice production increases, naturally its price would also increase. But the recently inflated high price of rice has come down. Currently coarse rice price is Tk 40-42 per kg.
Qamrul Islam also urged all to think about providing fair price of rice to farmers for ensuring its sustainable production.
"When we talk about rice price, we have to think not only about the consumers but about the farmers also. If the farmers do not get fair price for rice production, they would not produce the crop."
The government has achieved food security, now the focus is on ensuring supply of safe and quality food for people, he added.
Echoing the food minister, Additional Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture Mohammad Nazmul Islam said high price of rice is rational, as its production cost has increased significantly.
He thinks high price of rice is not a problem, as purchasing capacity of people in the country has increased.
Former Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture Anwar Faruque said rice price has been almost stagnant for the last 10 years. How would the farmers survive?
"Farmers would produce rice only if its production is profitable and sustainable."
"Food security cannot be ensured by importing rice. We have to make the production of rice and other food items sustainable," he opined.
However, opposing these views, IFPRI Country Representative Dr Akhter Ahmed said rice production has tripled since 1971, but its price has also increased. Rice price should have decreased with the rise in its production.
He said if rice production increases per unit, its production cost also decreases per unit. So, rice price should naturally come down.
"But rice price did not come down accordingly," he noted.
Mr Ahmed presented a study paper on "Promoting Agricultural Growth, Technology Adoption, and Crop Diversity".
According to the study, agricultural growth is two to three times more poverty-reducing in the country's economy than growth in other sectors.
The study showed rice production in Bangladesh has gradually tripled since the independence, but the growth rate has slowed down after fiscal year 2014-15.
It highlighted that national average real price of coarse rice has declined by more than 50 per cent during the last 35 years.
One per cent increase in real (inflation-adjusted) rice price is associated with 1.5 per cent increase in total rice yield, the study found.
It also mentioned that year-to-year price fluctuations are much larger for non-rice crops than for rice, which indicates relatively high levels of market-induced risks for production of the non-rice crops.
Executive Director of Krishi Gobeshona Foundation (KGF) Dr. Wais Kabir said the country needs to develop more new varieties of rice to devise ways of increasing its production.
"We have to remove yield gap, and high-performance varieties should be introduced for more rice output, otherwise Bangladesh will not achieve food sufficiency," he opined.
State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroze Chumki, IFPRI Director General Dr. Shenggen Fan, and USAID Mission Director Janina Jaruzelski, among others, also spoke at the workshop.