Country's rapid urbanization and improved connectivity have immensely benefitted farmers of far-flung rural areas in marketing farm produces. Driven by innovative modifications to the way from farm lands to cities, farmer's income has grown manifold, according to the Global Food Policy Report-2017 of Interna-tional Food Policy Rese-arch Institute (IFPRI). The institute has been working to find out sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. 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 focused on the impact urbanization in achieving nutrition and food security. The report found that access to communication tools such as mobile phones is empowering farmers and enhancing their ability to sell their goods in urban markets, and that farmers who are closely connected to cities receive a better price of staple crops.
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 the farmers used their phones to agree on prices. Greater access to information is allowing farmers to get the best available prices for their crop.
"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 co-author of Chapter 5: Agricultural Value Chains: How Cities Reshape Food Systems. "Policymakers 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 out 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.
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, it was suggested.
This report was first published in The Daily Asianage on April 17, 2017