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Cyclone victims face sharply rising food prices

Badal Miah, 24, says raddish sales have plummeted in the wake of Cyclone Sidr in Barguna District, southern Bangladesh.
(David Swanson/IRIN)

Almost a month after Cyclone Sidr slammed into Bangladesh’s coastal belt, killing over 3,000 and leaving millions more homeless, food prices have surged by as much as 50 percent in the cyclone affected area - price hikes well beyond the means of most cyclone survivors.

“I have never seen food increases like this,” Alomgir Hossain, a local rice broker who has worked in the local market in cyclone-affected Barguna District for the past two years, told IRIN. “Food prices have doubled,” the 35-year-old said.

Prior to the cyclone, one kilo of rice, sold for around 15 US cents. Today it sells for 22 US cents. Other basic staples - grains, pulses, vegetables and fruit - are going up sharply, as is poultry.

“Of course food prices are rising. How couldn’t they?” Lalmiah Bepari, complained bitterly, having lost his own paddy field on 15 November when the storm struck.

He said business was bad: “I used to sell around 30 chickens a day. Now I barely sell four or five,” the 55-year old claimed, citing rising food prices, a drop in supply and lower disposable incomes among local residents, many of whom are trying to rebuild their cyclone-devastated homes.

“Before the cyclone, I was selling about 300-400 kg a day of radishes. Now I’m doing about half of that,” Badal Miah, 24, said.

Photo: David Swanson/IRIN

"I used to sell around 30 chickens a day. Now I barely sell four or five."

Lalmiah Bepari

Even bananas, which account for nearly 45 percent of the country’s total fruit production, have tripled in price jumping from six US cents a piece before the cyclone to around 12 cents now.

“Sales are down because people have less cash in hand and prices have gone up,” 22-year-old banana vendor Nasir Uddin, concurred.

Crops, livestock farming hit

According to the UN, over 1.6 million hectares of cropland was damaged by Sidr - particularly devastating for this year’s `Aman’ crop, the most important rice harvest of the year in this largely agricultural society of more than 150 million inhabitants.

Unlike many other regions in Bangladesh, the area has a single November-January harvest, making the timing of the cyclone particularly harmful. Many crops were just about to be harvested.

The UN’s Rapid Initial Assessment Report, focusing on the nine worst affected districts, noted that a quarter of ready-to-harvest crops had been destroyed; with many households also losing their food stocks as a result of severe damage to housing.

Large numbers of cattle, buffalo, goats and poultry had been killed, the 22 November report said, and the government estimated that nearly 400,000 livestock animals had been killed - mostly cattle.

“Food prices were already high prior to the storm due to high international food prices and earlier flood-related losses,” Douglas Broderick, country representative for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Dhaka told IRIN, referring to two rounds of heavy monsoon flooding earlier this year.

“Prices are expected to stay high for the near to medium term,” he predicted, describing food markets in the affected areas as “generally functional”.

Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
Customers and venders alike at the Chunakhali food market say prices are simply too high

WFP food aid

To date WFP has delivered more than 350 metric tonnes (mt) of high energy biscuits and over 750 mt of rice to more than 1.2 million people in the worst-hit areas, overland and by boat, as well as by air.

It plans to provide over 71,000 mt of food to 2.2 million people at a cost of $52 million over the next six months. To help cyclone victims regain their livelihoods, WFP will support the rebuilding of roads, schools and other infrastructure through food-for-work and cash-for-work schemes.

Speaking to IRIN on 13 December, Usha Misra, an advocacy adviser for WFP, said a market assessment on Sidr’s impact on food prices in the cyclone-affected areas was now under way, with preliminary results expected in the coming days.


see also
International cyclone aid tops US$233 million

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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