Ami Bangladeshi

Ami Bangladeshi

Ami Bangladeshi

চাল নিয়ে চালবাজী

Living in Bangladesh, I’ve witnessed devastating floods. I know how powerful the force of water can be. Living in US, I’ve experienced few hurricanes. I know how strong the power of wind can be. Just a mere category 2 hurricane (96-110 mph wind or 154-177 km/h wind) can put everything upside down, uproot or snap trees and electric poles, destroy crops and kill livestock, and level everything on its way. When you combine these two monster forces of Mother Nature together and drop them over Bangladesh, the outcome is not very pleasant for this tiny but densely populated nation. We had two back-to-back floods in Bangladesh last year, and Sidr put the last nail in the coffin right before winter months. Speaking of cyclone Sidr, it had strength of a category 4 hurricane (131-155 mph or 210-249 km/h wind). To put it in perspective, cyclone Sidr and hurricane Katrina were almost identical in strength. It took a wealthy nation like USA years to restore and rebuild New Orleans from hurricane Katrina. It will be naïve for us to expect Bangladesh to stand on her feet in such a short time after these repeated floods and cyclone that Mother Nature handed her.

I was in Bangladesh last year (before the devastating flood started) and had an opportunity to travel the southern districts of the country by road. It was an amazing experience for me. I saw fields full of crops that had just been planted, and verdant fields everywhere as far as my eyes could go. It was the best part of my trip. The reason I bring this up is to give you a picture of before and after Sidr, since Sidr ripped through these areas after it touched down in Sundarban.

The aftermath of floods and Sidr left us with nothing but destructions and millions of hungry people in cold winter months. However, the death toll was far less than the 1991 cyclone (which killed almost 150,000 people) due to prompt and timely evacuation right before Sidr. I have a reason to believe that these natural phenomenons contributed to recent shortage of rice in Bangladesh. And the price hike has lot to do with dishonest and opportunist businessmen, let alone increase of price in international market.

India previously committed to sell 100,000 tons of rice at US$399 per ton to us. As of this writing, they are selling 600,000 tons of rice at that price. The bad news is they now want US$430 per ton of rice for the remaining 400,000 tons of rice due to price increase in international market. As a result, we are getting less rice for our buck! But the good news is, they are still selling it to us below Thai rice US$730 per ton, Vietnamese rice US$700 per ton and Pakistani rice US$800 per ton price. Had we not been hit by Sidr, we would have had our own home-grown rice to meet the recent challenge.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the global rice supply for 2008 will hit 70 million tons, the lowest level since 1983-1984, with yields trending lower. If the production of rice is low in the world market, then how can we manage to feed 150 million people in Bangladesh? Don’t you think we need to find alternative diet for the time being?

You can yell, blame and point your fingers anyone you like. But that will not feed millions of empty stomachs in Bangladesh. I know hungry poor people do not understand the economics of rice. And they don’t understand the blame game either. And please do not try to capitalize your political agenda using this crisis. I mean,

চাল নিয়ে চালবাজী

 

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