Thursday, June 23, 2011

Despite rise of food price in Bangladesh, poverty has reduced slightly

Photo: Julian Francis/Millions of rural poor were empowered, mostly women folks
SALEEM SAMAD

THE POOR communities in Bangladesh described their eating habits have changed and forgotten the taste of red meat or even lentils. The kitchens, traditionally dominated by women have pieces of chicken and fish species which they never have previously considered to eat.

Despite rise of price of food in Bangladesh increased in first half of 2011, the poverty has surprisingly reduced slightly, a Oxfam survey claims.

The report “Living on a Spike: How is the 2011 Food Price Crisis Affecting Poor People?” said the price hike of 2011 is affecting the poorest most, but it has been generally adverse on the wider society.

While food inflation reached 10 percent, according to the study released on Wednesday, Bangladesh depends on the international market for additional food imports, and changes in global prices are expected to have a local impact.

Bangladesh, a nation of 158 million has reduced poverty levels and improved living standards significantly in recent years despite global economic meltdown and natural calamities, the report said.

The study was designed to explore how poor people experienced the food price hike of 2011 in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya and Zambia. It follows on from research in the same communities in 2009 and 2010.

On the other side, the national poverty headcount rate declined in Bangladesh to 31.5 percent in 2010 from 40 percent in 2005, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistic and the World Bank jointly study launched on Wednesday.

The new survey report revealed that rural poverty declined to 35.2 percent in 2010 from 43.8 percent in 2005, while urban poverty has fallen to 21.3 percent from 28.5 percent in the same period.

Economist Wahid Uddin Mahmud said the poverty rate was 50 percent in 1990 and it came down to 45 percent in 2000 and 40 percent in 2005. The poverty rate has declined by eight percent in last five years, writes private United News of Bangladesh.

He said the poverty has been decreasing gradually in the country keeping pace with the increasing growth of per head national income.

The poorest and most vulnerable try to cope by working harder, eating less, living even more frugally, drawing down any resources and assets and managing on a day-to-day basis, the report said.

Small farmers do not always benefit from high food prices as is supposed, as many sell their outputs at low prices immediately after he harvest to repay loans taken for cultivation; many people believe instead that an increasing number of middlemen and large traders cream off the main profits from high rice prices.

However, the communities under study held the government responsible for failure to protect them against food price spikes.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

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