Urbanization, income increase, and women joining the workforce are the driving factors
With around six million tons of yearly import, Bangladesh has emerged as the fifth biggest importer of wheat in recent years.
But as the developing world's appetite for the cereal is growing swiftly, driven in part by rapid urbanization, rising incomes, and more female family members joining the workforce outside of their homes, the demand for wheat-made foods will continue to grow in Bangladesh.
A statement, issued at the International Wheat Congress 2019 (IWC19) at Saskatoon in Canada’s breadbasket province Saskatchewan, states that researchers have determined that wheat consumption in Bangladesh will increase dramatically by 2030, with demand growing fastest in urban areas.
According to the CGIAR (formerly Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) Research Program on Wheat, the increased demand is coinciding with a hotter, dryer, and more variable climate, and limited natural resources — the challenges wheat scientists are fighting through innovative breeding, disease diagnostics, and analysis of agronomic, and social factors affecting adoption of innovations.
Some 900 wheat scientists from over 50 countries, who have converged at Saskatoon, in what has been described as the world's biggest ever wheat science conference, focused their deliberations mostly on future challenges of growing significantly more grains from less resources in more unfavourable weather conditions for a rapidly growing global population.
Thanks to lesser and lesser arable lands available for wheat due to high rice, and maize demands for food and feed purposes, Bangladesh is now growing roughly over a million tons of wheat, thereby, requiring to buy some six million tons from international market by spending over a billion dollars annually.
That's why IWC19 has emphasized on developing better breeds in Bangladesh like the one — Bari Gom-33 — its scientists developed a couple of years back, to effectively fight wheat blast, a deadly fungal disease.
It also stressed the need for providing women farmers with full access to farming technologies.
A new report based on the experiences of around 2,500 women and men in wheat farming communities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Ethiopia has found that deep-seeded gender norms limit women's access to new technologies.
The issue of climate change-induced challenges for wheat cultivation also featured prominently in the IWC19.
During this correspondent's visit to Elstow, a wheat growing village on the Saskatoon outskirt, Dhaka Tribune approached the Ruggs family for comments on future wheat production challenges.
Bob and Merle Ruggs, and their two sons have been growing wheat seeds among other crops, and selling them among fellow wheat farmers in Elstow, and in the neighbouring Saskatoon region.
They told this correspondent of extreme weather conditions, such as drier summers in recent years, having a bearing on wheat productivity.
In Bangladesh, works are also underway in tandem, with the efforts put up by the scientists at Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center for development of wheat varieties that can withstand stresses such as heat shock, and effectively fight all kinds of diseases, pests, and fungal attacks.