Bangladesh: Government shopping for farm land

Published on Food Crisis and the Global Land Grab (first in IRIN), by , Nov. 15, 2011.

DHAKA, 15 November 2011 (IRIN) – The government of Bangladesh is looking near and far – from Ukraine to South Sudan – to bolster food security at home, according to the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management … //  

… Land that is billed as “unused” or government-owned is often used by local people with weak land rights, who have been farming the land for generations, but have no legal deeds.

In addition, costs to prepare the land and necessary infrastructure for planting are often higher than expected, she said.

Contract farming with local people – whereby a country buys crops at an agreed price – is an alternative that can capitalize on local knowledge, Meinzen-Dick said.

“In general, they are not a panacea for the investor country,” she said of such deals. “Many of these are not living up to expectations on the investor side, and at the same time many of them are also really harming local people.”

Of 464 large-scale agricultural land acquisition and investment deals that were announced from October 2008 to August 2009, actual farming had begun on only 21 percent of them a year later, according to a 2010 World Bank study.

Despite the costs, Razzaque said he expected farming overseas was still cheaper than importing more food, though the government has not conducted cost-comparison studies.

“Import[ed food] is subjected to the prices dictated by the global food market, which is often very volatile. In comparison, this venture will only be subjected to the production and shipment costs.”

Hunger in Bangladesh, as measured by rates of undernourishment, underweight children and child mortality, improved from “extremely alarming” to “alarming” between 1990 and 2011, according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) but food security, despite improvements, is still a major concern.

Two million children aged between six months and five years suffer from acute malnutrition, including half a million with severe acute malnutrition, according to a 2009 survey conducted by the UN and government. (full text).

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