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Bangladesh looks beyond the food crisis

Rising food prices, in a country where people spend half their income on food already, are a crucial issue for finance minister Mirz Azizul Islam.

Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line and spends almost half of its income on food. Rising food prices are a crucial issue for finance minister Mirza Azizul Islam, who is also seeking ways to bring the country into the club of Asian growth economies. Chris Wright reports.

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ARMY CHIEFS ARE rarely to be found touting the virtues of potato recipes. But these are remarkable times. So it was that Bangladesh’s general Moeen U Ahmed – who under the military-backed interim government commands much of the real power in this country of 158 million people – addressed a press conference at the Dhaka Radisson hotel in May urging people to eat more spuds.

Moeen’s entreaties were designed to ease pressure on rice supplies, and were one of the more oblique side effects of a food crisis that, at its peak, more than doubled the price of rice imported by Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is very much at the sharp end of the world soft commodities boom that has made others rich. The increase in minimum rice export prices from India from $425 a tonne in October 2007 to $1,000 a tonne in March 2008, feeds directly through to people in importing countries who are on the survival line already – Bangladesh gets most of its rice imports from India.

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