Rapid growth of Bangladeshi cities is driving innovative modifications to the way farms and cities connect that are helping farmers earn more for their goods, according to a new international study report. The 2017 Global Food Policy Report released by Washington based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) revealed that the access to technologies such as mobile phones is empowering farmers and enhancing their ability to sell their goods in urban markets. The farmers who are closely connected to cities receive a high proportion of the final price of staple crops, says the report.
Each year, the Global Food Policy Report assesses major developments and events in food policy around the developing world. With rapid urbanization occurring across the developing world, the 2017 report focuses on the impact urbanization is having on nutrition and food security.
“Urban markets are rapidly growing in Bangladesh and cities are increasingly becoming engines of transformation for agricultural and food systems,” says Bart Minten, IFPRI senior research fellow and coauthor of Chapter 5: Agricultural Value Chains: How Cities Reshape Food Systems.
“Policy makers must design policies that effectively link small farmers and cites to ensure that these farmers benefit from the opportunities cities provide for growth.”
To find how cities are influencing the links between farms and cities, researchers conducted a survey of value chains in four developing countries, including Bangladesh. The survey studied the movement of two major crops, potatoes and rice, from rural farmlands to their capitals to examine the value chain’s changing infrastructure, technology adaptation, prices, margins and quality.
In Bangladesh, the study found that 80 percent of farmers own a cell phone, and 71 percent of farmers used their phones to be in contact with buyers. Further, nearly all farmers contacted more than one buyer and more than half of farmers used their phones to agree on prices. Greater access to information is allowing farmers to get the best available prices for their crop. Farmers are also
benefiting from a shorter supply chain. The study observed that farmers in Bangladesh obtain 74 percent of the final retail price for rice, a higher share compared to that of developed countries such as the United States, where, for example, potato farmers are estimated to receive only 15 percent of the final retail price.
As Bangladesh’s markets develop and the country continues to improve on delivering farmers’ produce to urban markets, quality and food safety standards will become increasingly important.
For higher-quality staple foods, a rise in urban demand has not brought small farmers proportional benefit; the survey found farmers are seeing only marginal benefits from selling those higher-quality staples. Future food policies should encourage higher-quality staple products, while making sure farmers are securing greater returns for their investments in them, the study reveals. The Global Food Policy Report also provides regional and country specific profiles of the unique challenges facing Africa, Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The International Food Policy Research Institute seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with a particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries.
This report was first published in The Independent on April 16, 2017