The Cabinet on Monday gave the final nod to a draft law on food security with a provision of life-term imprisonment (up to 14 years) for illegally stockpiling food products.
The proposed law titled "Production, Storage, Movement, Transportation, Supply, Distribution and Marketing of Food Grains (Prevention of Prejudicial Activity) Act, 2023" includes tougher punitive measures to prevent manipulation in the food supply chain from the production stage.
In addition, new offences related to the marketing of food products have been included in this draft law. For example, marketing a product using a fictitious name instead of its original one will be considered as an offence and punishable by two-year imprisonment or a fine of Tk10 lakh, or both.
Chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Cabinet meeting at the Jatiya Sangsad approved several other draft laws, Cabinet Division Secretary Md Mahbub Hossain told reporters after the meeting.
The Cabinet secretary said the food safety law aims to properly manage the production, storage, supply, distribution and marketing of grain food products such as rice, rice, wheat and corn.
"The government does not want any kind of irregularity or conspiracy regarding food. For this reason, various crimes related to food security will be identified and punished through this law," he said.
The new law was formulated by combining two previous laws – the Food (Special Courts) Act, 1956 and the Foodgrains Supply (Prevention of Prejudicial Activities) Ordinance, 1979.
Md Mahbub Hossain said there are 20 sections in this draft law, which in principle was approved by the Cabinet on 19 April 2022. The final approval has been given in Monday's meeting.
The cabinet secretary said, "It will be a crime if any person hoards more than the government-fixed amount of food products in any mill, factory, warehouse, house, vehicle or any other place. But if it can be proved that the offender did not hoard for financial or any other gain, he can be jailed for a maximum of three months and the court will decide on the fine.
"If food products produced from any unauthorised variety of food crops are marketed under a different or fictitious name without mentioning it as a by-product, it will be considered an offence under this law. This may ban the sale of 'Miniket' rice in Bangladesh. Similarly, the production or marketing of any foodstuff by completely or partially changing its normal ingredients shall be punishable."
Md Mahbub Hossain said there was no crime related to marketing in the previous law. The new law includes the provision of imprisonment for two years or a fine of Tk 10 lakh or both.
"If anyone supplies old foodstuff after polishing or mixing them with other foodstuffs, then he/she will be punished with two-years imprisonment or a maximum fine of Tk10 lakh, or with both," he said.
It will be considered an offence for any person to make, print, publish, or distribute any false information or statement relating to the production, storage, transfer, transportation, supply, distribution and marketing of foodstuffs, Md Mahbub Hossain said, adding that the punishment for this offence will be two years imprisonment.
"If a company commits any offence under this Act, then the chief executive, director, manager, secretary, partner, officer and employee of that company shall be deemed to have committed the said offence," the Cabinet secretary said, adding that unless he/she can prove that the violation of law or the offence committed was without his/her knowledge or that he/she did his best to prevent the said offence.
The Cabinet also cleared the draft of the Bangladesh Dairy Development Board Act, 2023 to produce quality milk and milk products, he said.
As per the draft law, there will be a board headed by the fisheries and livestock minister as its chairman and a 19-member governing body will run the board, said the Cabinet secretary.
The main functions of the board will be to provide suggestions and technical support over the rearing of domestic animals through scientific systems, medical services, and production and marketing of quality milk, he added.