Grain Exporters’ Protectionism
Bangladesh may feel the heat
Bangladesh might get hurt by rising world agricultural prices due to protectionism of grain exporting countries. “Export taxes and export restrictions lower prices domestically [in exporting countries] but increases world food prices, thereby affecting food importing countries like Bangladesh,” said Antoine Bouet, a senior research fellow of the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), at a workshop on food security policy yesterday.
“Bangladesh is very much exposed in terms of world food crisis,” he said.
IFPRI with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) organised the two-day workshop that rounded off at a hotel in the capital yesterday.
State Minister for Environment and Forests Hasan Mahmud, and USAID Deputy Mission Director Dennis Sharma were present at the concluding session of the workshop.
Bouet went on to note that Bangladesh is the least protective among South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) countries as far as its agricultural tariff regime is concerned.
He pointed out, sometimes big food importing countries also reduce their import tariffs to lower domestic prices, when it is coupled with export restrictions by exporting countries, that by default worsens significantly the situation of small food importing countries like Bangladesh.
Citing the food crisis of 2007-08, Prof MA Taslim of the department of economics at Dhaka University said World Trade Organisation (WTO) might not help food importing countries get food and ensure food security if any exporting country put a ban on export during a crisis period.
Experts at the workshop also underscored the importance of examining the role of large automatic rice millers in the staple market and their stocking behaviour as they influence prices.
Focusing on salinity affected southern region, experts suggested crop zoning, expansion of modern technology, and educating farmers on the negative impacts of climate change on farming.
AUTOMATIC RICE MILLS
Minhaj Mahmud, co-author of a paper on productivity and efficiency of rice mills, said the number of large auto-mills is quite small.
But those mills, with much larger capacity and higher productivity, have potential destabilising power and control over market intermediaries as often alleged, he added.
“Stock behaviour of auto-mills and others as well as networking with marketing agents and sellers of paddy may help explain the paradox of rising price of rice despite high production level,” he said.
Planning Commission Member MA Sattar Mandal said some 20 to 25 automatic rice mills control a large part of rice processing.
Sattar said small rice husking mills have roles in building stocks at local levels, and these might help reduce control and influence of large mills on the market.
Prof WMH Jaim, director of research and evaluation division of Brac, said rice, processed at automatic mills, have less nutrient content due to increased polishing.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue Executive Director Mustafizur Rahman suggested forming cooperatives of farmers.
Citing salinity intrusion in the soil of the south, sudden floods, and cyclones as well as erratic rainfall, State Minister for Environment and Forests Hasan Mahmud said Bangladesh has already begun encountering the negative impacts of climate change which threatens the nation’s food security.
He also expressed his lack of hope about the possible outcome of the coming climate change meet in Durban. “We want a text of legally binding agreement. But the progress that has been made so far does not raise hopes for it.”
Mahmud said commitments made in the past have not been reflected in the actions.
Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), said climate change has created fears of knowledge gap among farmers who have so far learnt cultivation techniques from their predecessors.
The climate change made it necessary to re-educate the farmers and it will take years to do it, he said.
Presenting a paper, Timothy Thomas of IFPRI said due to the climate change, yields of Aman rice in the south might decline but yields of Boro might increase.
-With The Daily Star input