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04 January, 2008 - Published 15:19 GMT
Shortage of rice in Bangladesh
Officials in Bangladesh say the government's stocks of rice are dwindling in the face of a crisis in the domestic market. The crisis was brought about by the destruction caused by cyclone Sidr which hit Bangladesh in November. This report from Sanjay Dasgupta:
A senior official in the Bangladeshi agriculture ministry, Ayub Mian, says government stocks of rice now stand at six hundred thousand tonnes, which is less than half the normal level. Rice is the staple food for the vast majority of Bangladesh's hundred and forty million people.
Despite its dwindling stocks, the government is selling rice at controlled prices. To some observers, the long queues that have formed in front of shops where rice is being sold at controlled prices look like the signs of a bigger food crisis in the near future - a prospect the country's interim government is trying desperately to avoid. At the moment, it is mainly consumers in urban areas who've been badly hit by the price rise; people in the villages tend to store part of what they produce for times like this.
But how long the situation can hold is now the big question. The widespread devastation caused by cyclone Sidr in November, and by monsoon floods before that, damaged the winter harvest. Bangladesh asked for emergency supplies from neighbouring India and from donor nations. But, so far, the supplies haven't materialised.
Sanjay Dasgupta, BBC
at controlled prices
to store part of what they produce
the supplies haven't materialised