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Containing food crisis PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 31 March 2008

It is in fact, the responsibility of the government of the day to ensure food at prices the people can afford. Citing rise in international prices means sidetracking the issue. If international prices of essential food items are high, then the government shall have to find ways and means to subsidize the prices. All other things can wait. In fact, the coming days are going to be even more difficult. Many rice producing countries have either stopped exporting or increased prices. Cambodia, Vietnam and a few other countries have stopped exports while India has raised price to $ 1,000 per ton to discourage exports. Speculations that price of rice will go up another 40 per cent or so in the near future are quite realistic. That will mean coarse rice selling at Tk 45 a kilo. What will the poor do? Clearly the caretaker government has no clue as how to tackle this situation. It has tried many things but without even the minimum of success so far. In their back of mind, those who are running the government now know that they themselves are also partly responsible for this situation. So they are following the “once bitten twice shy” policy and are unwilling to go for tough measures. We also know that rise in international prices does not fully explain the skyrocketing if prices here. Thus the market will remain susceptible to manipulation by profit-hungry businessmen. The question is how to bring down the prices. The Governor of Bangladesh Bank has suggested that we build up food stock instead of foreign currency reserve. Currently, we have reserves of more than six billion dollars. A part of this can used to import essential items to create a reserve of selected essential items like rice, what, pulses, edible oil etc. This will be the short-term measure. We also need a long-term plan to tackle this vital life-and-death issue. Everything possible should be done to increase domestic production.

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