How the war in Ukraine threatens Bangladesh’s food security

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As the Russia-Ukraine crisis continues to disrupt the global trade of key foods such as wheat and vegetable oils, along with fertilizers, impacts are falling heavily on countries such as Bangladesh. Dependent on imports of those items to feed its large population, many poor and vulnerable to shocks, the country faces the prospect of rising food insecurity.

The conflict threatens Bangladesh’s recent progress on this front. With a population of 165 million in 2021—with 38% employed by the agricultural and fisheries sector—and a growing economy, the country’s undernourished population declined from a high of 16% in 2000 to as low as 9.7% in 2019. While the COVID-19 pandemic increased food insecurity, by some measures the country proved relatively resilient: According to a IFPRI study, the proportion of rural households facing moderate or severe food insecurity rose from 15% in early 2020 to 45% in Jan. 2021, then returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021.

Now that 2021 recovery is in danger: Bangladesh saw a record rise in prices of staples in March 2022, along with volatility in the fertilizer market. In this post we discuss Bangladesh’s trade exposure to several commodities facing export restrictions, the fiscal impact of rising imports, and potential measures for easing food security pressures.

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