Among the fastest growing importing countries, Bangladesh imported 5.5 million tonnes of wheat in the last fiscal. FAO predicts this is likely to increase to 6 million tonnes in the current fiscal year.
Even just five years ago, Bangladesh was not among the top 10 wheat importing countries of the world.
Changing in food habits and increased health awareness has made people to turn more to wheat, consequently raising the demand of the grain, said former director of the Institute of Nutrition and Food Science Nazma Shahin told Prothom Alo.
“People nowadays eat less rice as wheat contains more protein and provides more energy. On the other hand, rice contains starch that may cause diabetes. Also, wheat is cheaper than rice,” Shahin explained.
The top four countries ahead of Bangladesh in importing wheat are Egypt, Indonesia, Algeria and Brazil. These countries imported 507 million tonnes wheat in the previous fiscal year.
The top exporting countries are the United States, Russia, Canada, Australia and Ukraine.
According to the FAO report, overall wheat production increased by 20 per cent over the past five years.
The production increased from 900,000 tonnes to 1.2 million tonnes in 10 years.
Usually the wheat available in the local market is mixed with corn. Corn production has also increased to 39 million tonnes last year. Most of the corn is mixed with wheat to prepare poultry and fish feed.
Meanwhile, government statistics show, the risk of diabetes is increasing among the adults of the country. The government’s 2006 survey on non-communicable diseases (Steps 2006) showed about 5.5 per cent of adults were suffering from diabetes while another similar survey (steps 2018) showed 6.4 per cent of adults suffer from this disease in Bangladesh. That means more than 7.6 million people are suffering from diabetes.
Physicians advise eating roti (flat bread) instead of rice to control blood sugar levels. Apart from this, many people eat rice once a day and bread in the two meals other meals, out of health awareness. There is thus an increased consumption of roti, bread and wheat products in the country.
With growing urbanisation and increased per capita income, the consumption of roti, fish, meat and dairy products will increase, says country representative Akhter Ahmed of Bangladesh Policy Research and Strategy Support Program (IFPRI).
“A large number of working people eat out nowadays in Bangladesh. This is positive, but the quality of food in the outside eateries should be ensured,” he added.
*This piece originally published in Prothom Alo print edition has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat