Food is a basic human need and plays a crucial role in the agro-based economy of Bangladesh, where a large proportion of the income of the population is allocated to food. The first and foremost responsibility of the State is to ensure an uninterrupted supply of food to all people at all time. According to the Article-15(a) of the constitution of Bangladesh, it shall be a fundamental responsibility of the State to secure its citizens to the provision of basic necessities of food. As per Government’s Allocation of Business, it is the duty of the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management to establish a dependable food security system for the nation. The Government of Bangladesh is firmly committed to achieve food security for all, defined at the 1996 World Food Summit as: access by all people at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life. This provision is also reflected in all the development plans of the Government.
Bangladesh is also a signatory of GATT Uruguay Round Agreement in 1994 at which, among other issues, agricultural trade liberalisations was agreed. Following the recommendation of the Bangladesh Development Forum, the process of consolidating the country’s food security programme at a larger scale was started in 2000 through a task force document entitled “A Comprehensive Food Security Policy for Bangladesh”. Meanwhile a high priority was given to further strengthen and harmonise government’s efforts to ensure food security for all. It was achieved through revisiting all existing related policies and strategies. The goal of the first national food policy, which was adopted in 1988, was to achieve food security for all people by increasing food production and attaining self-sufficiency. However, many important aspects of food security remained unattended in the food policy of 1988 which was based on availability of foodgrain alone. The present food policy was developed in the light of the recently adopted Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and also in a broader perspective according to the definition of food security as adopted in the World Food Summit.
Food scenario in Bangladesh has undergone major changes over the last decade, moving from a system involving large-scale government interventions in rice and wheat markets to a more market-oriented system, with public food distribution system increasingly targeted to those households which are mostly in need. Moreover, as foodgrain production has increased and foodgrain availability at the national level has been successfully maintained at a satisfactory level, the focus of government policy has gradually expanded to include major efforts at improving nutrition status of children and women and nutrition education. Given the subsistence nature of the rural economy, food insecurity is directly related to basic food production, increase in population and decrease in cultivable land. With the current level of poverty, these factors create a complex environment for national food security.
Ensuring food security for all is one of the major challenges that Bangladesh faces today. Despite significant achievements in foodgrain production and food availability, food security at national, household and individual levels remains a matter of major concern for the Government. Since Independence, Bangladesh has made significant progress in increasing domestic production of foodgrains. This, to a large extent, helped in overcoming the constraints of insufficient national food availability. Adequate food availability, though admittedly necessary, is not a sufficient condition for ensuring national food security. Ensuring food security for all requires a major effort at enhancing access to food and subsequent utilisation of food by the poor and distressed households.
The Government of Bangladesh, in accordance with the World Food Summit Declaration of 1996 and the Millennium Development Goals (2000) has set its target at reducing the number of poor people to half by the year 2015. Achieving this target will require addressing all aspects of food security: (i) greater efficiency of domestic agriculture and enhanced availability of food, (ii) assistance to attain increased food access by the food insecure, (iii) sustained increase in the incomes of the poor and the distressed to enhance their access to food, iv) adequate supply of safe food, and v) appropriate programmes to reduce malnutrition through increased effectiveness and proper utilisation of the consumed food. To ensure overall food security, the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management will carry out its own programmes; in addition, it will ensure extending all out support to all concerned ministries and agencies in implementing their own food-security related strategies and programmes. In this way, attaining food security will be possible through a coordinated implementation of the programmes of all concerned ministries and agencies (as set in the national plan of action for food security framed in association with all concerned ministries in the light of the approved national food policy).
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