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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 January 2008, 15:13 GMT
Bangladesh 'facing rice crisis'
Gen Moeen U Ahmed
The general said more must be done to guarantee food security
The chief of the Bangladesh army says the country is facing a catastrophe over rice supplies.

Gen Moeen U Ahmed said that he was "very concerned" about the problem which he said must be redressed immediately.

Many people have been hit hard by spiralling food prices, which in some cases have doubled over the last year.

Rice is the staple diet of most Bangladeshis, but this year crops have been damaged by heavy monsoon rain.

High costs

"If we think it is a catastrophe and work together, we can overcome the crisis," Gen Ahmed said.

Rice being loaded onto a Bangladeshi boat
Rice is having to be imported (Pic: Daily Star)

He blamed the global market for the price increase - India recently raised its price from $425 a tonne to $500 a tonne.

Higher transportation costs have also been blamed for the rise, following a damaging monsoon and the aftermath of November's cyclone.

The government says that it is taking measures to tackle the problem, and three ships carrying 107,000 tonnes of rice arrived at Chittagong - the country's main port - on Thursday.

It says that another ship with 10,000 tonnes of rice will reach the port on Friday and that several more rice-carrying vessels have booked berths for the next two weeks.

The government also says that it has introduced food-for-work programmes, and schemes to feed vulnerable and poor people.

Correspondents say that thousands of poor people can be seen queuing up at numerous stalls set up by the authorities to sell rice at a subsidised rate of 25 taka ($0.36) per kg.

Officials say that the government currently has about 600,000 tonnes of food grains, and that a minimum stock of 1m tonnes is needed to meet emergencies such as November's cyclone which killed over 3,300 people and left millions homeless.

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