FOOD AND AGRICULTURE IN BANGLADESH: A SUCCESS STORY

His Excellency Mr. Stoyan Dimitrov, the Honorary Consulate General for the Consulates office of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Bulgaria has been invited to the popular satellite TV (Bulgarian Balkan Television- BBT) on Sunday 20.05.2007 (12.30 hrs local time) to discuss on the article: Food and Agriculture in Bangladesh: A success story. See the article below:

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE IN BANGLADESH: A SUCCESS STORY

By Gordon West, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Asia and Near East Bureau, United States Agency for International Development

Bangladesh’s thriving agricultural sector, benefiting from a new global partnership between the people of Bangladesh and foreign aid agencies, international research institutions, and nongovernmental organizations, has become a South Asian success story. Further agricultural gains realized through greater crop diversification, free market policies, investments in seed research and irrigation, infrastructure developments, and new approaches to food aid have helped move the country to a position of near self-sufficiency in rice, its main crop.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or ideas of the U.S. Government, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), its management, or those serving within the agency’s Asia and Near East Bureau.

Bangladesh’s accomplishments in transforming its devastated agricultural sector into one of the most productive farm economies in all of South Asia is a major development success story. Once racked by famine and dependent on food imports, the country is now essentially self-sufficient in rice, is emerging as a significant exporter of high-value agricultural products, and enjoys the second highest percentage growth in per capita income in South Asia. Its success is largely a story of close cooperation between the government of Bangladesh and its peoples with foreign aid agencies, international research institutions, and indigenous nongovernmental organizations.

THE ECONOMY OF BANGLADESH

Bangladesh has a population of 131 million — about 1,007 persons per square kilometer. Almost 26 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from agriculture, including fisheries, which also accounts for more than 13 percent of its export earnings. Over 70 percent of the population is directly engaged in farming or related activities.

Within the past few years, Bangladesh has reached self-sufficiency in its main cereal, rice. Rice production increased from 11.7 million metric tons in 1974 to 23.1 million tons in 2000, an average annual increase of 3.6 percent. Wheat production climbed from 0.11 million metric tons in 1974 to 1.8 million metric tons in 2000. Cereal prices are low and stable, and production continues to increase. The economy also is showing rapid diversification, particularly in the livestock and poultry sectors.

Agricultural exports, both bulk commodities and higher-valued processed products, grew by nearly 5 percent over the last five years. In 2000, the value of shrimp exports alone was $296.3 million. And unlike the garment industry, where the bulk of the export earnings go back out of the country to pay for imported raw materials and machinery, with agribusiness the value added stays in the country.

AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH

Much of the success in Bangladesh’s agricultural sector can be attributed to the development and implementation of dry-season irrigated rice. Thirty years ago, almost all of Bangladesh’s cereal production was from the monsoon crop. Now almost half is dry season, made possible by the development and release by the public research institutions of high-yielding rice varieties adapted to shorter days and cooler temperatures.

The introduction of this rice was aided by the decision of the Bangladesh government not to intervene in the market. Prices reflected market forces, and the private sector imported pumps to irrigate dry-seasons crops. The fertilizer system was privatized, resulting in a tripling in the use of fertilizer in 10 years. Bangladesh farmers took the challenge by planting and irrigating the new high-yield seed. The entire rural population has benefited: peasant farmers now get two or even three crops per year, and landless peasants find that their income-earning possibilities have expanded. It was through publicly supported agricultural research working in tandem with private investment for irrigation that made the jump in rice production possible.

Similarly, organizations like the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) collaborated with the Bangladesh’s agricultural research system to introduce more sustainable and efficient rice, wheat, and maize cropping systems into Bangladesh.

ADOPTING FREE MARKET POLICIES

Bangladesh’s decision, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, to liberalize its food import policy is another important side to the country’s success story. The government has removed many agricultural subsidies, eliminated quantitative restrictions, reduced tariff levels, and created an open-market economy that makes agricultural inputs readily available for farmers and guarantees fair commodity prices. Today, Bangladesh’s agricultural sector is the most open and least subsidized of South Asia.

One of the keys to this success has been the decision by the government to liberalize the import of food. Over the last 10 years, private traders have stepped in to import food grains during times of domestic shortfall, often driven by floods. These actions by private traders have provided both supply and price stabilization and have removed a major financial burden from the government. During fiscal year 1999, private sector food imports to address needs arising from the 1998 flood reached 2.26 million metric tons, mainly from India. Had the government of Bangladesh imported this grain itself, the total fiscal cost would have been about $185 million. The private sector’s share in food imports climbed from zero in 1991 to 50 percent in 1996 and 100 percent in 2000.

The government of Bangladesh also reoriented its large public food distribution system away from mass distribution in favor of a targeted food “safety net” program for the poor. In fiscal year 2000, 85 percent of public food was targeted for the poor, an increase of about 46 percent over 1992.

INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT

One of the major roles played by foreign development agencies in Bangladesh has been the financing of rural infrastructure, which has made it easier to move products from field to market. During 1995-2000, U.S. financing helped rehabilitate over 15,000 kilometers of farm-to-market roads, creating jobs and improving year-round access to markets and to basic human development services. The cost of food transportation has dropped, and freight traffic has increased 94 percent.

Foreign financing also facilitated efforts to improve water flow, which led to a quicker recession of floodwaters and a subsequent 16 percent increase in agricultural production — by value — in the affected areas.

Rural electrification, aided by funding from foreign aid agencies, has been another important factor in the agricultural productivity gains. During 1977-2000, nearly 2.42 million domestic connections were provided and over 80,000 irrigation pumps electrified. The 57 local electric cooperatives now reach over 20 million rural people. Crop yields are up in electrified villages, as are both the number of agricultural jobs and the wages received by agricultural labor. The rural electrification program has a 95 percent rate on collection of payments, compared to only 60 percent nationwide.

A GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP

Food security and safety in Bangladesh benefited from the effort of global partnerships. USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide wheat, which is sold on the Bangladeshi market for local currency. Funds raised from the sale of grain are allocated to local development activities, and the government of Bangladesh uses food grain monetization for its social safety net activities. One specific program provides a food provision to poor families when they send their children to school rather than to work. This Food for Education program increases overall educational levels, decreases child labor, and provides food to poor families.

Under the local development programs, men and women in the most food-insecure areas in Bangladesh are given the opportunity to work for a wage and/or food through programs administered by CARE and World Vision. These programs improve the rural infrastructure and increase community assets by building environmentally sound, all-season roads. Program participants also plant trees to prevent soil erosion, and poor women are employed to care for the trees.

Similarly, the United Nation’s World Food Program (WFP) has provided food assistance for nearly 3 million Bangladeshis. Some of these receive WFP rations as payment for their efforts to reclaim rural roads, community fishponds, plantations, and flood-protection embankments.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

While there have been impressive successes in Bangladesh, important challenges remain. Rates of malnutrition in the country are among the highest in the world, and nutritional standards are poor. Production from dry season farming is leveling off, in large part due to problems of scale — farms are simply too small to make possible or feasible the kind of capitalization necessary to bring about further significant increases in yields.

A further transformation of Bangladeshi agriculture, mostly in terms of diversifying into higher value products such as maize, legumes, livestock, and vegetables, both for domestic and export markets, is the next logical step for the country. Rice uses four or more times more water than crops like wheat and maize, and the lack of adequate water will be a major impediment to future agricultural productivity. Also, Bangladeshi diets lack essential amino acids, fats and minerals, and vitamins. By making products such as wheat, fruits, milk, pulses, and meats widely available at affordable prices, it would help improve overall health.

The good news is that there are no major obstacles to diversification and there are a host of new seeds to address a broad range of environmental challenges. The close cooperation between the government of Bangladesh, the research institutions, and international development agencies suggest that Bangladesh can move beyond self-sufficiency and that agriculture and agribusiness are going to remain the bedrock of Bangladesh’s economy for years to come.

Source: Economic Perspectives: http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/ites/0502/ijee/bangla.htm

4 responses to “FOOD AND AGRICULTURE IN BANGLADESH: A SUCCESS STORY

  1. We, the expatriate Bangladeshis, , are always looking towards our beloved country with utter expectation that an environment of scientific thinking, a momentum for going forward will be created where people will be allowed to cultivate their capacities to its full extent. Such recognition of the successes of the peasants of our country really boost up our morale amidst all frustrations inflicted so far by our leadership. At times, I think, the only way out for us is not to look at the Government to do some changes for us, we have to make changes from within ourselves. This story reminds me of that thinking since the story revealed that the success of the private sector and individuals had made the Government to change its policy to make it more friendly to these farms, individuals and organizations.

  2. Exactly so! You are right brother Mosharraf, about with what you started: “We, the expatriate Bangladeshis, , are always looking towards our beloved country with ……………..”. I was wondering…is that because of feeling only? And nothing else???
    I had the opportunity to watch the live telecast of the Interview. I followed every questions asked by Krassimira Sultanova, the BBT presenter to HE Mr. Stoyan Dimitrov. If translaed the questions were as follows:

    1. Mr. Gordon West, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Asia and Near East Bureau, United States Agency for International Development told that “Food and Agriculture in Bangladesh: A success story”. What is your opinion?

    2. The blooming agricultural sector for development for which exceptionally important role is played by New global partnership between Bangladesh and the Agency for Foreign Relief, International Research Institutes, and the NGO-s : these are the recent comments by specialists.
    How that has been evaluated in the country (Bangladesh) itself?

    3. Are Bangalee-s a proud nation?

    4. The government has changed (cancelled, diverted) many subsidies in the agricultural sector, removed the quantitative limitations, reduced the tariffs and established a free market, which is a positive stimulus (encouragement) to the farmers, who make the agrarian sector of Bangladesh to be a most profitable one in the economy in comparison to other economies of South Asia.

    What will you say?

    5. “An important task for the International Agency for Development is to finance the
    Agricultural Infrastructure”. How shall we treat this? Isn’t that important also for us (BG!) such development of infrastructure?

    6. The Global partnership has supported Food Safety (Safeness of harvesting, food
    Preservation etc) of Bangladesh, which itself helps the poor families and kids to attend schools instead of giving child labor. “Food for Education” is a strong program of the world organization to help countries of the South Asia.
    Could we launch (apply) similar programs in Bulgaria? More and more Bulgarian children are not attending schools because of lack of finance.

    7. How far it reached the success of finding petrol and natural gas in Bangladesh?

    8. What could we (in BG) import from Bangladesh?

    If one surf the questions, an top if stays abroad….she or he must be proud. Just note the 1st question. Note the 6th question. Bulgaria is a full member of EU and their GNP/GDP is n-times higher than that of BD. Still they praise BD performances.
    It was very nice that no polical question was asked. Otherwise .

    I agree cimpletely with the words of Mr. Mosharraf “we have to make changes from within ourselves”. Right….within ourselves should be including the people bonded to the mainland itself parimarily and the expatriots also. Let the Government to feel a little proud, when such article is published by US official sources, but the Government must take the responsibility for all the misshaps, hazards, misuse etc…they must be brought before the common public for accountibility. The more we are late more cancer cell will be generated…and at some stage it might be impossible to save the nation…Who will hear?

  3. I am trying to tell about the misurable lives of the street people of Bangladesh in my site Canvas of life. Please add a link of the site at your blog to let the world know about them.

  4. hey there. Thanks for the info🙂. It was rather nice reading this at this late hour. i wud bump here later. t/c

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