Poverty, Hunger, Nutrition, and Food Production in Bangladesh

NGO News Report :: The Unnayan Onneshan, an independent multidisciplinary think-tank, states that the rate of reduction in hunger is slower than poverty in the country and the rate of decline has slowed down in both cases.

The research organisation made this observation in its research ‘Poverty, Hunger, Nutrition, and Food Production in Bangladesh,’ released coinciding the observance of the World Food Day 2013.

In 1991-92, the percentage of hungry people was 37.9 of the total population and reduced to 24 in 2012 with an annual rate of reduction by 1.79 percent. On the other hand, the poor people living below the absolute poverty line was 56.7 percent of total population in 1991-92 and reduced to 29.99 percent in 2012.

The rate of reduction in extreme poverty increased from 1.95 percent between 1991-92 and 2000 to 4.32 percent during 2000 to 2012. On the contrary, the rate of reduction in hunger has declined decreased from 1.95 percent during 1991-92 to 2000 to 4.32 percent between 2000 and 2012.

The think-tank states that the average food deficit between 1990 and 2012 in Bangladesh was 163.52 kcal/caput/day. The organisation notes that rice demand might increase to 24.56 million ton against the population of 172.53 million in 2020. “This demand might further increase to 28.01, 32.02 and 36.61 million ton in 2030, 2040 and 2050 respectively to feed the population of 196.74, 224.95 and 257.20 in the corresponding years,” predicts the Unnayan Onneshan.

Although prevalence of malnutrition is declining over the years, the research organisation detects that the rate of decline has reduced among the lowest income quintile. The rate of reduction in malnutrition of women among the lowest income quintile has decreased with an annual rate of 2.62 percent from 47.1 percent in 2004 to 43.4 percent in 2007. This rate, however, has slowed down to 1.9 percent during 2007 and 2011, adds the report.

The number of children with underweight has decreased from 59.3 percent in 2004 to 50.3 percent in 2011 with an annual rate of 2.17 percent among the lowest income category. The number of underweight children with highest income category decreased from 30.2 percent in 2004 to 20.9 percent in 2011 with an annual rate of 4.4 percent.

The research organistaion points out that the price hike of food commodities has eroded the purchasing power of the marginalised section. ‘About 0.04 million people might newly add to the total population living under the poverty line due to one percent increase in the food inflation,’ notes the think-tank with caution.

The report identifies that challenge for agriculture sector in Bangladesh is to meet food demand for huge population along with keeping food prices within an accessible limit of the poor for ensuring food security.

The Unnayan Onneshan finds market failure in the form of predatory price fixing and price manipulation along with the lack of government intervention exerting pressure on price, resulting into increases in prices as well as volatility of price. “The strengthening of institutions to address market failures can be a better way to address both volatility and upward pressure on prices,” adds the report.

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