|SOUTH ASIA: Regional food bank gets go-ahead
||Saturday,August 9th 2008
concept had been on the table for some years. Now all countries have
finally agreed on the formation and implementation of the SAARC Food
Bank," Wais Kabir, director of the SAARC Agriculture Centre in the
Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, told IRIN.
"Properly [realised], it
would serve as a milestone in strengthening the existing cooperation
among the nations of South Asia," he said.
His comments follow
last weekend's announcement at the 15th SAARC summit in Colombo, Sri
Lanka, confirming the bank's establishment as part of the
organisation's long-term food security and agricultural development
plans for a region of more than 1.5 billion people.
projects would augment food production, invest in agriculture and
related industries, conduct agricultural research, share technology,
assist in procurement and distribution, as well as manage climatic and
Conference leaders also called for
members to forge greater cooperation with the international community
in ensuring food availability and nutritional security in the region.
the terms of the agreement, the bank would act as a regional food
security reserve for SAARC member countries during food shortages and
emergencies, as well as provide regional support to national food
security efforts, foster inter-country partnerships and regional
integration, and solve regional food shortages through collective
bank would hold 241,580 metric tonnes (MT) in rice and wheat reserves,
contributed by each SAARC member, including Bangladesh (40,000MT),
Bhutan (180MT), India (153,200MT), the Maldives (200MT), Nepal
(4,000MT), Pakistan (40,000MT), and Sri Lanka (4,000MT). Afghanistan's
share would be decided later.
Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
|In line with global fuel costs, food prices thoughout South Asia have risen dramatically|
The reserves would remain the property of the individual member country and would be in addition to any national reserves.
while no start date for the bank's opening has been announced,
officials say the process will begin in a couple of months, with Sri
Lanka proposing the bank's headquarters to be in Dhaka.
involves the construction of new food warehouses in member countries,
local procurement and [the] international purchase of extra food
grains, and developing an administrative system and a distribution
network. So it is likely that it will take some time before
operationalising the SAARC Food Bank," said Mohammad Panaullah, a
senior agro-consultant to the Bangladesh government.
discussions about such a bank took place 20 years ago and the plan is
not without its critics. On 2 August, two civil rights organisations
warned that the adoption of any unified policy on agriculture for the
region on the basis of food security would ruin Bangladesh's
agriculture and food production system.
"Farm sectors of South
Asian countries will be hostage to multinational companies engaged in
the seed business if a unified policy on agriculture is adopted for the
region on the grounds of food security," Odhikar and Ubinig (Policy Research for Development Alternatives) said in a statement