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IFPRI, IRRI, CIMMYT, WorldFish make joint call for measures to avert risk to food system

  • Published at 08:40 pm April 22nd, 2020
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Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The CGIAR Centres commend Bangladesh’s response to contain Covid-19 spread, call for ensuring transportation of food and farm inputs

World’s leading food security think-tank and research centres have recommended Bangladesh to ensure transportation of food from rural to urban areas and the flow of crucial inputs to farmers through market systems so that risk to food system during Covid-19 pandemic can be averted. 

In a statement paper jointly issued on Wednesday by a few top CGIAR Centres called for guaranteeing the supply of horticultural, fish and livestock products–in addition to the staple foods, rice and wheat–to provide diverse, nutritious and safe diets for all. 

The CGIAR Centers include the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), WorldFish, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Formerly called Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, CGIAR is largest global agricultural innovation network. 

These institutions called for minimizing impacts on farmers’ incomes from high inputs and labor costs and lower than normal farmgate prices, supporting the private sector in its crucial role in providing affordable inputs to farmers, supporting the flow of remittances and cash flows to rural areas, and expanding access to finance options for farmers in need of capital to assure production. 

Their statement noted, “As seen in the response to the social distancing challenges currently affecting boro harvest, scale-appropriate farm mechanization options will also become increasingly important to assure timely operations.”

The statement is jointly signed by Dr Akhter Ahmed, Country Representative of IFPRI-Bangladesh; Dr Timothy J. Krupnik, Country Liaison for Research and Partnerships of CIMMYT-Bangladesh; Dr Humnath Bhandari, Country Representative of IRRI-Bangladesh and Dr Christopher Price, Country Director WorldFish-Bangladesh. 

They feared that even partial closure of ports may result in high prices and limited stocks of pulses, edible oils, wheat, and crucial feed supplies (particularly maize and soybean). “Similarly, although current national stocks appear to be initially sufficient, prolonged suspension of international trade could undermine the future supply of key inputs (particularly phosphorous and potassium fertilizers, vaccinations, pesticides, and fuel) at reasonable prices.”

They commended Bangladesh government’s response in implementing timely, appropriate measures to contain the spread and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 but, hastened to caution that, “This situation presents substantial risks to Bangladesh’s food systems–with important implications for national food, nutrition, and economic security.” 

They, however, appreciated that the government has recognized these challenges, and has responded with measures to exempt essential agricultural activities during the boro season from closure. “In particular, we are encouraged that essential inputs continue to be provided through ongoing agricultural business trade and that appropriate farm machinery is being used for timely harvesting.” 

Similarly, the announcement of financial support for seed purchase and requisition of wheat and rice are expected to mitigate this crisis, the statement added.  

In an initial rapid analyses carried out by the CGIAR Centers, they identified some of the emerging concerns as: notable reductions in the availability of perishable foods, including vegetables, fruits, and fish; farmers facing challenges in selling perishable goods at reasonable prices; social distancing measures appear to be slowing ongoing horticultural and boro crop harvests; and delays in maize harvests loom as a near-term concern. 

“While trucks are permitted to transport agricultural inputs and produce, informal and courier transport services that play a key role in input supply and food distribution are suffering,” said the CGIAR Centres. 

“The livestock, poultry, and aquaculture sectors are suffering as the supply of essential feeds and veterinary services has been disrupted and are experiencing unprecedented shocks.”  

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