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Food prices on rise as famine threat looms 

Rokon Uddin
16 Oct 2022 00:00:00 | Update: 16 Oct 2022 02:14:25
Food prices on rise as famine threat looms 

Food prices are on the rise in the capital amid warnings of extreme food crises ahead, including famine in various parts of the world.

According to data released by government agencies, prices of rice, flour and various food items have increased by 7-14 percent in the kitchen markets of the capital in the last one month. The price hike has exacerbated the fear of panic buying and food shortages among traders and consumers while experts warned against opportunists who may exploit the situation.

Threat of the looming crisis has also been raised by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in recent days.

“Food production has to be increased. It is now inevitable and the utmost important issue for us,” she said while addressing a meeting of the executive committee of the national economic council (Ecnec).

The premier said she talked with the head of states, governments and different organisations during her recent visits to the United States and the United Kingdom, all of whom apprehended that there might be a grave famine in 2023 while the economic recession will deepen along with food crisis. 

The global food market is already reeling from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, extreme weather, rising inflation and the Russia-Ukraine war. The World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations last month called for urgent humanitarian action for 19 hunger hotspots in total, to prevent huge loss of life between October 2022 and January 2023.

Meanwhile, experts have urged authorities to expand the scope of social security coverage to deal with the crisis. 

According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh’s (TCB) market price list, the price of parboiled rice has increased by 15 per cent in the last one year, of which 7 per cent has increased in the last one month.

Similarly, the price of flour has increased by 64 per cent in the last one year, of which 13 per cent rose in the last one month.

Besides, in the last one month, the prices of some pulses have gone up by 7 per cent, prices of onion and garlic have gone up by 6-14 per cent, eggs and meat have gone up by 9-10 per cent as concerns over food security grew.

Meanwhile, fine rice price has increased to Tk65-75 per kg from Tk60-70 per kg a month ago. Medium quality rice was being sold at Tk52-58 a kg on Saturday, up from Tk 52-56 a kg a month ago. Per kg open wheat flour cost Tk58 on Tuesday, up from Tk52 a month ago while packaged wheat flour price rose in a similar fashion to Tk 58-60 a kg, from Tk 55-58 last month.

Speaking to The Business Post about the looming food crises, Khondaker Golam Moazzem, director of research at the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) said data regarding the crises created by prolonged war and fuel shortage can serve as early warnings for countries that are dependent on import for food.

“So people need to know these predictions. Also, based on that advance warning, some changes should be made in the action plan of the government,” he said.

However, the CPD research director warned that such crises can give rise to opportunists as well. He recommended that the government be active to deal with this kind of problem.

He also said the government should increase the coverage of social safety nets to the poor and those close to the poverty line.