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Int'l researchers fear double blow

Covid-19 threatens hike in food prices, supply chain disruptions

FE Report | April 23, 2020 00:00:00

Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) identified a number of emerging concerns in the country's food production and supply chain system during Covid-19 pandemic that require immediate attention.

"Notable reduction in the availability of perishable foods, including vegetables, fruits, and fish, which are crucial for health and nutrition" is among the concerns, according to a CGIAR statement released on Wednesday.

It said farmers are beginning to face challenges in selling perishable goods at reasonable prices, as the government has put the entire country on lockdown to stop spread of Coronavirus pandemic.

CGIAR said despite measures to control prices, foods along with some crucial commodities are becoming unaffordable, especially for the poor in urban areas.

"Social distancing measures appear to be slowing down ongoing horticultural and Boro crop harvests, and delay in maize harvest looms as a near-term concern." The statement further said trucks are permitted to transport agricultural inputs and produces. But, informal and courier transport services that play a key role in input supply and food distribution are suffering.

The livestock, poultry, and aquaculture sectors are suffering, as their supply of essential feeds and veterinary services has been disrupted, and these sectors are experiencing unprecedented shocks, CGIAR noted.

It also expressed concern, as reduced food and labour demand by food processors, supermarkets, eateries, restaurants and hotels are, in turn, impacting hundreds of thousands in the service industry.

To improve the food production and supply situation, the organisation also offered a set of suggestions, including enhanced permission for transportation.

"Enhanced permission for transportation is required to assure the flow of food items from rural to urban areas as well as the flow of crucial inputs to farmers through market systems."

CGIAR also said ample supply of horticultural, fish and livestock products should be guaranteed in addition to the staple foods, rice and wheat to provide diverse, nutritious and safe diets for all.

It urged the government to take some measures, including minimising impacts on farmers' incomes from high input and labour costs, supporting flow of remittance and cash flow to rural areas, and expanding access to finance options for farmers. CGIAR opined that increased social safety-net measures will be required to support both rural and urban poor consumers.

It further stressed on the need of action plans to support Bangladesh's food systems in response to international trade restrictions. "Even partial closure of ports may result in high prices and limited stocks of pulses, edible oils, wheat, and crucial feed supplies."

CGIAR added that prolonged suspension of international trade could undermine the future supply of key inputs (particularly phosphorous and potassium fertilisers, vaccinations, pesticides, and fuel) at reasonable prices.

Bangladesh country heads of International Food Policy Research Institute, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CMMYT), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), WorldFish and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), constituents of CGIAR, signed the statement.


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