People in Bangladesh have cut their food intake by 4.7% because of a drop in their earnings and the ongoing global food crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine war and a subsequent rise in fuel and fertiliser prices, finds a recent study.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) revealed the study, "Russia-Ukraine War and the Global Crisis: Impacts on Poverty and Food Security in Bangladesh and Other Developing Countries", at a Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies programme organised in the capital on Wednesday.
Although all households have been hit by food price hikes, the poor and village folk are suffering the most, the report noted, adding that they have cut their intake of protein including fish, meat and dairy goods, fruits, and even vegetables.
"The Russia-Ukraine conflict has shot up prices of food, fuel and fertilisers, resulting in an increase in the poverty rate by 3.3 percentage points worldwide," IFPRI Director for development strategy and governance, Paul Dorosh, said in presenting the study report at the event.
The new poor might be 5 million in number, he added.
The report projected a 2.5% drop in agriculture's contribution to Bangladesh's GDP, with a decrease in the production of rice, wheat, and other major crops. Besides, GDP growth might drop 0.3 percent.
To overcome the situation, Paul Dorosh suggested the government exempt duties on food imports, increase fertiliser subsidies and local production, and provide cash assistance to the poor.
"Three items, fuel, fertiliser, and food, have seen continuous price hikes as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war. Rising fuel prices have already affected transport and other sectors and increased government spending, while fertiliser price hikes might disrupt the agricultural supply chain [in the near future]. It's our concern now," Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies Director General Binayak Sen said.
"However, although the study has been on the effects of price increases, it has not mentioned anywhere that Russia's exports have been stopped due to the sanctions," he said.
"Can we import fertiliser from Russia, can we import wheat at low prices? If India can, why can't we do that? It's because of the sanctions. It was not mentioned anywhere [in the study report]."
"The global prices of wheat and edible oil have recently increased suddenly. However, we could import those from neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, they also have imposed bans on these export items. Now the issue is, how long can we import these items [from neighbours] through negotiations, as we don't know how long the war will continue," he added.
Binayak Sen saw cash transfers, among other policies recommended in the report, as most effective in overcoming the food crisis.