Further reducing import dependence for food products

Bangladesh, at present, is seen as growingly dependent on the import of some essential food products notwithstanding that it achieved self sufficiency in the production of the basic staple, rice. This dependence for non cereal foodstuffs has been increasing in spite of some activities in recent years to reduce the same through more growing of onions, spices and other kitchen relate items inside the country.
But notably Bangladesh imports nearly all of its requirements of baby food and half of its need for milk in powdered form. The country was once self sufficient in onions, garlic, ginger and other spices. Now the greater parts of the demands for these spices are met by imports.
This country produced a surplus of peppers once upon a time. But now it takes care of more than 60 per cent of its demand for dried pepper from imports. 75 per cent of the demand for pulses is also met by import. 70 per cent of the demand for cooking oil is also met by imports. Even salt is imported in large quantities from time to time.
The above figures are indicative of the lack of efficiency of its agriculture in the production of these agro produces when Bangladesh has been renowned for the amazing fertility of its soil and its comparative advantage in growing various food products. Bangladesh was once famous for its abundance of fishes. But now, a big part of its demand for fishes is also met by imports.
The fast growing import activities for meeting basic consumption related needs of people should indeed be a cause of concern. When the imports are mainly industrial raw materials or intermediate products, the same can be thought of as useful economic activities in view of their value-addition potentials. But surely the same cannot be said about edible goods meant for sheer consumption.
The price-lines of many essential kitchen items and food products soared to high levels in the local markets from time to time. The various moves to control this price rise proved to be difficult or impossible because these consumption goods had to be procured from markets outside the country and government has no powers over overseas markets.
Thus, this ‘imported inflation’ as it is called, continues to ravage our consumers from time to time although inflation from this source presently looks rather tame. But it can show an upswing again if international prices of imported foodstuffs start going up again. But this would not happen, if, over the years policies were adopted and pursued more effectively to increase production of these foodstuffs within the country. In that case, Bangladeshi consumers today would be assuredly hedged from the imported inflation which often translates into every day painful costs of living anguishes for them.