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Man-Made `Silent Famine' in Progress in Bangladesh

April 16, 2008 (EIRNS)—Bangladesh's Regulatory Reforms Commission Chairman Akbar Ali Khan, speaking at a seminar in Dhaka, said: "It's a silent famine as more people than the official figure of 40% living below the poverty line are not in a position to buy food at so much high prices. We need immediate interventions and we have to work for a long-term food security." On April 15, Bangladeshi caretaker government finance adviser Mirza Azizul Islam slammed international lenders, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), for "not doing anything" to help ease the food crisis.

The rising price of rice is part of a global trend in rising food costs, with wheat leading the way, up more than 180% on the year, soybeans up 82%, soybean meal up 67%. But it is rice, with its fundamental place on the plates of Bangladeshi citizens, that is worrying Dhaka. A year ago, rice was trading on the Chicago Board of Trade at $10.08. It has more than doubled, up to $20.175.

Economically disastrous subsidized biofuel programs in the United States and Europe have caused a precipitous decline in the amount of agricultural lands planted for other food sources such as wheat and soybeans. Some 16% of US agricultural land formerly planted in soybeans and wheat is now being planted in corn, according to the US Department of Agriculture, most of it being used for biofuels. More corn — 86.7 million acres (35 million hectares) in 2008 — is being grown in the US today than at any time since World War II. A full 600,000 acres (242,800 hectares) more are in corn now than in 2007.