Edible insects refer to the insects that are brought under human consumption or consumption as animal feed. Edible insects contain high quality protein, vitamin, fibres and amino acids for humans and they have high food conversion rate.
According to the United Nations (UN), global population will reach 9 billion by 2050. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN mentioned that this huge population will create severe pressure on the capacity of food and feed production and consequently, it will cause serious threat to food security. To improve the status of food security and reduce the environmental impact on food supply for the future global community, researchers have proposed several strategies, with inclusion of insects as a viable food source.
Research findings showed that edible insects contain 44.2 to 69 per cent proteins on dry weight basis (Ghosh et al., 2017), 13-32 per cent lipids on dry basis (Paul et al. 2017) and minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium (Ghosh et al., 2017). Worldwide the number of edible insect species is considered to be about 2000 (Jongema, 2015). Many countries like US, Belgium, France, UK, Netherlands, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil and Mexico have already established their insect industries as a great source of income by marketing insects and insect-based food items. In India, 51 insect species, belonging to the 9 orders are considered edible.
In Thailand, 2000 insect industries have been established for insect consumption and marketing. Several insects are also used as a potential fish feed around the world. Many industries in the USA export insects in powdered form. The total global edible insect food and feed market in 2015 was USD 33 million (flour, bars, snacks, and animal feed markets combined) which is expected to exceed USD 522 million by 2023 (Global Market Insights Inc 2016).
As a subtropical country, Bangladesh has a good presence of insect species in different agro ecosystem available round the year. Our weather and climate are good for insect mass rearing. Interestingly, many of our ethnic people consume insects by collecting these from the wild environment which may be a potential base for insect industry in Bangladesh.
A research project entitled "Insect as a food: Bangladesh Perspectives" is going on under the Department of Entomology, Faculty of Agriculture in Sylhet Agricultural University funded by Sylhet Agricultural University Research System (SAURES).
Dr. Md. Fuad Mondal, Associate Professor, Department of Entomology and Kamrul Hassan, Assistant Professor of the same department are working as the Principal and co-principal investigators of this research project. The objectives of the project are to find out the ethnic groups in Bangladesh who consume insects as food item, to assess the feasibility of insect-based food industry for fulfilling local and international demands.
The research team has been conducting a cross sectional survey in 4 divisions of Bangladesh (Sylhet, Mymensingh, Rajshahi and Chittagong Hill Tracts) regarding the consumption of insects among the different tribes of those areas. Dr. Mondal and his team have already finished a pre-survey among the different tribal students of Sylhet Agricultural University. It has been found that almost 10-12 different species of insects such as grasshopper, field cricket, mole cricket, giant water bug, sting bugs are consumed by them or used for the different therapeutic purposes.
One of the tribal students at SAU named Malakhin Marma from Rangamati said that they consume almost 8 species of insects after boiling and roasting and sometimes they use them for medicinal purposes.
The proposed survey work will help identify the list of edible insects and therefore help develop insect industries both for local and international demand. The edible insects can also be used in poultry and fish industry as a source of protein feed. Thus unemployed people can engage themselves in those industries and through exporting reared insects, our GDP can be raised. Insect consumption will contribute largely to boost food and nutrition security for humans and animals.
Dr Md Fuad Mondal is Associate Professor, Department of Entomology, Sylhet Agricultural University, Sylhet.