Search

 

Cablegate: Food Adviser Asks for U.S. Assistance for Food Storage

VZCZCXRO8933
RR RUEHCI
DE RUEHKA #1089/01 2930926
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 190926Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7551
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0873
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 2384
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 8657
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 9901
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 8530
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0488
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 1497

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 001089

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/PB
NEW DELHI FOR FAS OFLAKE
BANGKOK FOR USAID
ROME FOR FODAG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR EAID ETRD ECON EFIN PGOV PREL BG
SUBJECT: FOOD ADVISER ASKS FOR U.S. ASSISTANCE FOR FOOD STORAGE
AND CASH FOR WORK

SUMMARY
---------

1. (SBU) Bangladesh Food, Disaster Management and Health Adviser
A.M.M. Shawkat Ali believes the Caretaker Government can be proud of
its achievements in the food arena. In a meeting with the
Ambassador, he highlighted food security, including food production,
storage, pricing and consumption. Ali described the GOB's
cash-for-work program; current lackluster performance of the family
planning program; and the GOB's firm commitment to outsource health
services delivery to the private sector. Ali requested USG
assistance for GOB food storage and cash-for-work programs, as well
as programs aimed at strengthening the homes and livelihoods of
areas in Bangladesh worst hit by cyclones.

FOOD SECURITY
---------------

2. (U) In a recent meeting with the Ambassador, A.M.M. Shawkat Ali,
Adviser for the Ministries of Food and Disaster Management and
Health, explained that the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) needed
greatly increased storage space for food stockpiles but did not have
adequate funds to acquire additional space. In the mid-1970s, the
GOB strategy, recommended by World Bank studies, had been to
publicly hold 1-1.5 million metric tons of rice. That strategy had
gradually changed to one which favored reliance on private sector
storage and kept public storage minimal. According to Ali,
legislative orders now made it almost compulsory for rice millers to
keep a surplus. Following the loss of rice crops during the
flooding and cyclone of 2007, there had been a shift back to holding
greater stockpiles of rice. Finding places to construct additional
storage facilities remains a major problem with few solutions in
sight. The Adviser said he did not believe in taking agricultural
land out of production, eliminating acquisition of land as a part of
the GOB's storage space strategy.

3. (SBU) The Adviser Ali noted that 45-48 percent of this year's
spring rice harvest came to the market as compared to a more usual
annual level of 60 percent. The drop in the percentage of rice that
comes to market was not a concern, however, as it was likely that
more rice was being held for household consumption or, in the case
of more affluent farmers, until rice prices increased. World rice
prices were currently higher than the price in Bangladesh, leading
to a nearly complete absence of private sector imports. (NOTE: In a
normal year, Bangladesh can supply over 90 percent of its domestic
rice needs. END NOTE.)

4. (SBU) Adviser Ali highlighted GOB efforts to provide additional
food aid to the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh, explaining that
food management officials are exploring with Save the Children and
CARE the possibility of doubling their food programs. According to
Ministry of Food and Disaster Management estimates, the GOB will
require 20 million metric tons to meet the five-year need for a
basic diet of 1800 KCAL daily for the ultra poor. While Washington
had been responsive to requests for increases in food assistance to
Bangladesh, the Ambassador noted this might be a difficult year to
solicit additional funding. Fortified flour was another option, but
Ali noted that encouraging its substitution for rice was a difficult
endeavor. Potatoes were a less desirable option owing to the need
for district-level cold storage facilities and limited popularity of
potatoes as a food among Bangladeshis.

CASH-FOR-WORK PROGRAM
-----------------------

5. (SBU) Adviser Ali reviewed the GOB's cash-for-work program aimed
at supplementing the incomes of the poor in the current inflationary
environment. Under the program, the Food and Disaster Management
Ministry pays 100 taka (approximately $1.48) for a day of labor on a
farm or in public works. On a recent field visit, Ali discovered
only female workers because men could find better paying employment
or preferred to receive an unemployment stipend of 90 taka instead
of working to receive 100 taka. Revised guidelines for the
unemployment stipend require 15 days of work at 100 taka to ensure
worker commitment to the program.

HEALTH ISSUES
---------------


DHAKA 00001089 002 OF 002


6. (SBU) Agreeing with the Ambassador's observation that family
planning was critical to addressing population issues in Bangladesh,
Adviser Ali acknowledged that the GOB's family planning program was
"stagnant." He expressed doubt that the GOB would meet its
Millennium Development Goal of achieving replacement level
fertility, commenting that not much could be done since family size
involved "personal choice." Since he joined the government in
January 2008, Adviser Ali said Health Ministry vacancies had
contributed to the stagnation of family planning programs. He
flagged this as a serious issue for the Food and Disaster Management
Ministry as well, which had operated in the past year with only 49
percent of its staff, despite being in the midst of a food crisis.
Although he had obtained permission to fill up to 80 percent of
vacancies in both Ministries, he doubted the Caretaker Government
would be able to implement this hiring program so close to elections
and a change in government.

7. (U) On the role of the NGO sector in health service delivery, he
reaffirmed the Health Ministry's committee to "contracting out"
services to private sources for 168 community clinics despite
resistance from some groups. (NOTE: This is good news, since
USAID's experience with the Smiling Sun NGO clinics network bears
out the workability of private sector health service delivery in
Bangladesh, and the Smiling Sun clinics and NGOs will welcome this
additional source of funding for their operations. END NOTE.)

COMMENT
----------------

8. (SBU) Adviser Ali, a long-time civil servant, said the most
effective past U.S. assistance to Bangladesh included USG rural
electrification, fertilizer and family planning programs. He
requested the USG consider funding food storage warehouses, a
100-day cash-for-work program, and programs to complement the
U.K.-assisted Char Livelihood Project. This British project aims to
build safe, flood-resistant houses, promote home gardening and build
awareness on health and family planning on Bangladesh's "chars," or
islands. Chars are seasonally inundated with flood waters and
traditionally are the areas worst hit by Bangladesh's frequent
cyclones. The Ambassador outlined for the Adviser the $77.5 million
USG program for long-term reconstruction and livelihood efforts in
Bangladesh that was part of our response to Cyclone Sidr in 2007.

Moriarty

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC