Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Monday urged the international community to stop war and politics with food and reach food to all as over 800 million people go to bed hungry globally, which are getting worsened due to the Russia-Ukraine war.
"I plead to the international community to stop war, stop politics with food, and stop wastage of food. Instead, please ensure food supply to areas of food shortage, and famine. As human beings, we must believe everyone has right to survive with food and have a decent life,” she said.
The prime minister said this while virtually presenting the keynote paper in the inaugural session of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) World Food Forum-2022 held in FAO's headquarters Rome, Italy from her official Ganabhaban residence in Dhaka.
She added: "If, on the other hand, a fraction of the money invested on manufacturing weapons was spent on food production and distribution, no one would go hungry in this world."
Expressing happiness to attend virtually the forum, she said the forum is taking place at a time when the global food system is reeling from the Russia-Ukraine war, sanctions and counter-sanctions, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the droughts across Africa, South Asia, and the Middle-East.
"I hope it will foster dialogue among key stakeholders to advance important solutions for agri-food system transformation," she said.
Mentioning that more than 800 million people or 10% of the world's population regularly go to bed hungry, she said things have now become worse with the Ukraine war, and subsequent sanctions and counter-sanctions, which have disrupted global food supplies and raised the cost of food.
"This deprivation is most unfortunate in our world of abundant resources which is boosted by remarkable contributions of science and technology," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said in real sense, there is no dearth of food on our planet, adding that the scarcity is simply man-made.
Politics and business interests with food, challenges of climate change, and pest and disease attacks are all putting pressure on our agri-food systems, she continued.
The prime minister said she desires such a world free from hunger and poverty.
Mentioning that Bangladesh is now an attractive destination for foreign direct investment due to its liberal policies that included tax benefits, incentives for exports, and other inputs as technology and competitive labour and laws conducive to investment, she called upon the foreign investors to invest in its agro-sector.
"Bangladesh has good potentials for agro-processing industries. I would especially like to invite foreign investors to invest in this agro-sector," she said.
The prime minister said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led Bangladesh to join FAO in 1973 as he understood how important this international UN agency was for the newly born nation.
Among Bangabandhu's foremost initiatives was to call for a Green Revolution for the economic emancipation of the farmers and the working classes, she said.
To realize it, she said Bangabandhu allocated a fifth of the development budget for agricultural uplift and established a host of institutions, including Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council, Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation and the Bangladesh Krishi Bank, for the overall development of agriculture.
"Tragically, on 15 August 1975, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib was assassinated with most members of the family. With his demise, the agricultural programmes and all other development initiatives came to a halt," she said.
Thereafter, a couple of decades followed without progress, she said, adding that then after 21 years of struggle for democracy and people's rights, in June 1996, she was elected to form a democratic, secular government.
Sheikh Hasina said, "Immediately, I began where my father left off, reviving his short, medium and long term plans of Bangladesh's overall development, and particularly agriculture as food self-sufficiency came first before all other necessities."
The prime minister said there was four million metric tons of rice shortage when she assumed office, and there was in surplus of 2.6 million metric tons of rice at the end of her first tenure.
In my present tenure, she said they have again made remarkable progress in rice production, mentioning that total rice production was increased to 38 million metric tons last year from 28.9 million metric tons in 2008.
"It was possible due to our pragmatic policies, robust incentives and importantly, our hard working farmers," she said.
The premier said her government's policies included mechanization and new technologies for increasing food production; giving agricultural appliances to farmers at subsidized rates up to 50 to 70 percent.
Thereby, from 2010 to 2021, more than 71,000 agricultural machineries were provided to them, she said.
Moreover, she said during her second tenure from 2009 to 2014, Agricultural Inputs Assistance Cards were given to 20 million farmers with individual bank accounts.
These cardholders are given loans directly to their bank accounts for crop production and subsidy for agricultural inputs, she said.
"Also, our central bank adopted an agricultural and rural credit policy for investment in agriculture. Thus, in the period 2020-2021, over two billion US$ loan was provided to 2.25 million small and marginal farmers," she said.
In addition, she also said 499 Agricultural Information and Communication Centers have been established countrywide to meet immediate needs of the farmers.
Apart from this, arrangements have been made to make available agriculture related information through mobile and web-based applications, she added.
In fact, a web page "Krishi Batayon" has been developed to make agricultural information and services easily available to the farmers, she said.
Despite it all, she noted that Bangladesh's agricultural sector is challenged by climate change and natural calamities.
Bangladesh, after all, is one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world, she said, adding, "And, climate change is a major threat to sustainable agriculture."
Yet Bangladesh and her resilient people have continued to move ahead tirelessly to attain self-sufficiency in all spheres of life, she said.
Along with agricultural products, sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has also succeeded in increasing production of vegetables, fish, and other agro-based products, most of which are exported.
In fact, in the world, Bangladesh has today ranked second in jute and fresh water fish production; 3rd in rice and vegetable; 4th in tea production; and 1st among eleven Hilsa fish producing countries, she informed.
The prime minister greeted the FAO for its support to Bangladesh to graduate from a food-deficit to a food-sufficient country.
She said, "I hope FAO will continue to do so, especially in the areas of agro-food system transformation, nutrition and livelihood of small holder farmers."
The premier concluded her speech by quoting Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who in his maiden address at the 1974 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Session said: "Let us together create a world that can eradicate poverty, hunger, war and human sufferings and achieve global peace and security for the well-being of humanity."