We are observing International Mother Language Day today in tribute to the hard struggle of the Bengali-spoken people to secure Bengali as their mother tongue. While we are paying tribute to our language, we must remember that, language is closely associated with our culture and heritage. In recent years, the Bengali language is being neglected by us especially in education. While we are getting more reluctant about educating our children in Bengali medium, we are also moving away from our culture.
Today, the people are suffering from price hike of commodity products, especially food which are source of protein but our households are moving away from own production and taking advantage of that, the large corporates are getting into this food business. The market of commodity products are being controlled by these large corporate houses now and the marginal farmers are going out of the competition. A black syndicate is now making the people hostage. If we could have been dependent on our production, which is our culture for centuries, then the situation could have been under control. Today, we have to remain victims of market manipulation.
All during 2022, consumers battled to keep up with the soaring costs of basic goods. 56 products saw price increases in 2022, with five of them having increases of more than 60%. These products ranged from fish, meat, and vegetables to rice, flour, and oil. Even in 2023, the trend of price increases is present. Lower-middle-income people are being forced to reduce their protein consumption due to the growing cost of broiler chicken and eggs, the cheapest and most abundant sources of protein in the nation. Ramadan will soon be here, which will result in significant price increases.
This week, the cost of a dozen eggs in Dhaka is approximately Tk.140-150. Sonali chicken costs Tk.320 per kg, broiler chicken costs Tk.230 per kg, and local chicken costs Tk.450 to 500 per kg, depending on size. Mutton costs about Tk.1,100 per kg, whereas beef costs about Tk.700-750 per kg. In recent days, the cost of every fish has also gone up. In other words, practically all sources of protein are outside the financial reach of those with lower and middle incomes.
According to the Bangladesh Poultry Association, the recent increase in the price of broiler chicks and eggs, which had a negative impact on marginal poultry farmers, was caused by large poultry farms in the nation. Large farms control the rates for the two products in their best interests because they are the only producers of broiler chicks and chicken feed. A chick that was sold at Tk.9 on January 5 was sold at Tk.57 on February 6. The large farms raised the prices in the season when the marginal farmers collected broiler chicks for their farms.
With contract farmers, the big farms produced eggs and broiler meat as well. Also, the farms sell poultry feed to contract and marginal farmers at different prices, which raises the marginal farmers’ production expenses. A 50-kilogram sack of feed is sold by the farms, including Kazi Farms Limited, Paragon, and CP, for Tk. 2,700 to contract farmers and Tk. 3,500 to marginal farmers. Large farms were able to offer eggs and broiler chickens for less since their production costs were reduced. As a result, marginal farmers are compelled to sell their goods for a loss. Due to the high production expenses, many marginal farmers closed their farms. About 60,000 of the 1,50,000 farms in the nation are now active.
The large corporate houses, who are both in the feed or fertilizer and poultry or dairy business, raise the price of animal feed or fertilizer first to put pressure on the marginal producers to close their business. At that time, they keep the price of their dairy or poultry products comparatively low. While the marginal producers struggle to make any profit and at the end, moves away from business, then these firms form a syndicate and increases the price of their products. It is an extremely ill practice in Bangladesh. These large corporates are few in numbers but the government even failed to control them due to their financial and political strength. These firms are draining the pocket of ordinary people to earn huge money and unfortunately the owners mostly launder the money to foreign countries and the country suffers from two-way losses.
The cost of nearly everything has been increasing in recent months ever since fuel prices were raised by more than 50% in August. People suffer while the exorbitant rates are frequently defended by citing global crises like the conflict in Ukraine. While the impact of the current global crisis is indisputable, it is also clear that the corporate world has a tendency to use global crises as an excuse to raise prices for necessities.
It has been noted that even though the goods had been imported at a lower price, the domestic market set the prices high immediately following the announcement of a price increase in the international market. When this is happening, local costs do not decrease at the same rate as those on the global market. The argument that the price climbed locally because it did so globally is flawed from the start.
Businesses in Muslim nations all over the world frequently advertise a special price during Ramadan. During Christmas, there are exceptional reductions in the West. In Bangladesh, on the other hand, Ramadan just strengthens the culture of exploitation.
As we mentioned our culture of own farming from centuries, it is absolutely necessary to revisit that concept. Immediately after liberation war, Bangladesh faces heavy food crisis. Father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1974 called for green revolution and crops were planted at every possible space. Bangladesh came out of food scarcity soon after this initiative.
The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also initiated “One Household, One Farm” (Ekti Bari Ekti Khamar) project but that did not find much success despite the repeated calls from the Prime Minister. She is an example by herself. Recently from a video documentary, we found that, how she is running an excellent firm which produces chicken, beef, mutton, milk, fruits, vegetables and fishes at her residence “Gonobhaban”. This video can truly inspire us.
If our people, especially at rural areas, create poultry and dairy firm as well as produce fishes and vegetables to serve their own family or community at least, then all syndicates will fail to manipulate market. PM Hasina repeatedly focused on ensuring food security and requested the people to produce crops and other food products. But she alone cannot change the whole country. Her message also cannot reach everyone. It requires political commitment from the whole government and both ruling and opposition party leaders and activists for the sake of the country.
We have to boost our rural agro economy for the sake of the country. Because, if the large corporate houses control the food market, then even after the end of Russia-Ukraine war the price hike will continue. PM Hasina has set an exemplary awareness of “One Household One Farm”. We should all follow that example and political commitment is also highly required in this area. The upazila livestock and upazila agriculture office should support the citizens in this aspect by providing them vaccines and other supports. By any cost, we must rejuvenate the rural agro economy.
While the Prime Minister herself is encouraging farming and food production, the inactivity of the ruling party leaders and activists in this matter is highly annoying. If they do not commit to this cause as per the guidance of PM Hasina, then they actually do not own Awami League or even the government.
We must realize that, we have to change our fate by ourselves. If we cannot strike back with our own production, then the syndicates and large corporates will keep sucking our blood. We hope, the citizens of Bangladesh will realize that soon and will bring another green revolution. Then only, our sufferings will decline.