The limited production of organic food in Bangladesh is not enough to fulfill the demand. Moreover, production has reduced significantly mainly due to lack of government patronisation, said experts on organic food. Hundred per cent of food items in the country contain chemicals and the percentage of organic food in the country’s food chain is less than one per cent, said Rabbni Badal of Unnayan Bikalper Nitinirdharoni Gobeshona (UBINIG), a research group for development alternatives. A few years ago, Faisal, an organic food manufacturer and supplier, got a national prize for harvesting pesticide-free food products. Faisal used to sell chemical-free fruits and vegetables in different outlets in Dhaka, but had to stop the initiative in 2012. The whole of Bangladesh was under organic farming until the 1960s. In 1974, the government had provided 100 per cent subsidy to farmers on chemical fertilisers and pesticides. In 1978, the government reduced the subsidy to 50 per cent on chemical fertiliser. In 1979, the import and export of chemical fertilisers was opened to the private sector. Of late, some organisations, including Harvest, are trying to supply organic food. But production has shrunk significantly, largely due to lack of government aid.
Aurup, who runs a Harvest outlet in Dhaka’s Mohammad area, said, “We need capital for better initiatives and it takes a long time to make profits from such kind of business. Moreover, many of us don’t have the passion.”
Chemical-free fruits and vegetables have become almost impossible to get now. The country is yet to develop an organic food chain network that has the ability to meet the growing demand for organic foods.
UBINIG, however, had initiated a movement to promote organic food in the 1980s. It is working on its neo-agro movement to provide healthy food as well as to protect biodiversity-based ecology.
Shaya Probortana, an associate organization of UBINIG, has opened several outlets in different areas in Dhaka, including Banani and Mohammadpur, to provide organic food.
Harvest has been selling organic foods from its outlets in Mirpur, Mohmmadpur, Kalabagan, Rampura, and Banani areas. It provides home delivery services. It stocks different kinds of food items such as sweets, vegetables, eggs, chickens, and herbal medicines. Consumers can buy different organic food items, including puffed rice from Aush paddy, parched rice (Khoi) and rice processed in traditional way, local fruits, powder rice, sugar cane molasses, date molasses, mastered oil, spices, honey and local fruits, from Probortana outlets, which also have home delivery services.
The prices of organic food are 5 to 10 per cent more than the other food products available in the markets.
The naturally produced food is sold in Gulshan Avnue, road no 127, house no, 76/2 every Friday from 10 am to 12 noon, while mainly organic vegetables are sold at German Butcher in Gulshan-2, road no 51, house no 9 on Tuesdays twice a month. On their part, consumers allege that the prices of organic food are higher and unaffordable for common people.
One such consumer, Ferdousi, said many people do not have the capacity to buy organic food items because the prices fixed by the manufacturers are too high.
Explaining the reason why some products are expensive, Farida Akter, executive director of UBNIG, told The Independent that the prices are fixed after calculating the production cost. She claimed it was not much higher as compared to other food products in the markets.
Production costs for organic foods are typically higher because of greater labour inputs and also because greater diversity of enterprises means economics of scale cannot be achieved. Agriculturist Fayzul Siddique said, “We term food items as classical organic food when they are cultivated on land that was left fallow for three years after farming based on chemical fertilisers.”
According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the pesticide used in the country’s farms was 446,246.78 tonne from 1984 to 2010. The statistics also show that an average of 16,527.65 tonnes of pesticide were consumed by humans every year.
About 30 lakh people around the world are affected by poisons due to chemical pesticides and around 7 lakh have been suffering from long-term diseases, according to a study conducted by the World Health Organisation. Considering the health hazards, the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nation has banned use of 13 types of pesticides, including DDT which is used dry fish in Bangladesh.
Author / Source: Tareque Moretaza
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