Silo in Bangladesh: A system of safe food management

Engr. Md. Gazi Ur Rahman

 

Gaziur Rahman

Bangladesh with a population of 160 million is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Population of the country is expected to reach 190 million by 2025. It’s a low income country with 25 percent of its population live below the poverty line. Food shortages and food price fluctuation in the global and local markets affect the poor most. It was extremely difficult to secure food supplies during 2007 after the flood and the cyclone Sidr, when there was a sudden price hike in the international market. Though Bangladesh has made some progress in food grain production but it could not keep pace with the population growth and there exists a gap between domestic production and household demand for wheat by about 3 million tons. Also Bangladesh is a land constrained country and due to urbanization a considerable amount of arable land is lost every year. Therefore, unless there is a great productivity gains for wheat which is very unlikely, the gap between the production and demand for wheat is expected to grow in future. Thus in light of the 2008 international food crisis, increased domestic demand and slow growth of domestic wheat production, the Government of Bangladesh has decided to enhance national food security by constructing modern facilities for food grain storage.

Besides, the Government of Bangladesh is seeking to increase and modernize its rice storage capacity through the construction of steel silo facilities on multiple sites with total capacity of one million tons.  The World Bank has in principle offered to provide funding for much of this storage capacity following the completion of project planning and feasibility analysis to be performed by the Food Department.

Silo at Joymonirghol of Mongla Port

Besides food aid, Government of Bangladesh also imports food grain, especially wheat from abroad from its own resources. On an average Government of Bangladesh imports about 1.5 to 2 million MT of wheat every year out of her own resources. The imported food grain is unloaded through two sea ports of the country i.e. Chittagong Port and Mongla Port.

To meet the demand of South-Western and Northern regions of the country and as a part of national food policy 40% of the imported food grain is required to be unloaded through Mongla Port. During the last decade 3.8 million MT of food grains were unloaded through Mongla Port. The system of food grain unloading at Mongla Port is very old and primitive. Due to lack of modern weighing facility at Mongla Port, the quantity of the imported food grain is ascertained by draft survey. About 93% to 94% of the food grains unloaded at Mongla Port are bagged in the holds of the ships and the remaining 6-7% are unloaded in bulk form by tarpaulin sling/ grab.

The food grain thus bagged is then loaded in smaller vessels for different destinations based on 10% weight. In absence of 100% weighing facility at Mongla Port, abnormal short lands occur in the mother/lighter vessels. The accumulated shortage in previous 10 years stands at 1,25,000 MT whereas at Chittagong Port this shortage is very negligible as there is a silo with mechanized loading/unloading facilities and modern weighing system. The aforesaid shortage at Mongla Port could have been reduced to an acceptable level by introducing similar facilities like Chittagong Port. In responding to the above challenges, Government of Bangladesh has undertaken a concrete silo project at Joymonirghol of Mongla Port. The silo at Mongla will save on an average Tk. 9 crore each year by preventing post-CIF losses. Moreover, government can earn considerable amount of  dispatch money by quick unloading.

Gaziur Rahman-1

Objective of Mongla Silo

(a) To strengthen sustainable food security and nutrition through developing 50 thousand MT concrete grain silo at Mongla Port with modern facilities for strengthening government food management system.

(b) To ensure quicker unloading of food grain at Mongla Port.

(c)  To ensure proper weighing system.

(d)  To enhance proper facility for Food distribution in the Northern and Western regions of the country.

(e)  To reduce abnormal post landing shortage of food grain at Mongla port.

(f)  To strengthen food security system of the country.

(g)  To build a safe food storage facilities in the cyclone /aila /sidr prone

area.

Rationale of Mongla Silo

Bangladesh is one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world. Floods, tropical cyclones, storm surges and droughts are likely to become more frequent and severe in the coming years. These changes will upset the significant achievements Bangladesh has made over the last 20 years in increasing incomes and reducing poverty. It is essential that Bangladesh should prepare now to adapt to climate change and safeguard the future well- being of her people.

It has been observed that a substantial amount of food grains have been damaged by sidr 2007. Because, the grains were stored in flat godowns whose plinth levels are almost at the Mean Sea Level. Therefore, it became imperative to construct vertical storages like silos with ancillary facilities like Jetty, conveying system, approach roads etc. at Joymonirgol of Mongla Port. The draft at Joymonirgol is 8.0-9.0 metre which allows vessels carrying 20 thousand to 25 thousand MT food grain to take safe berth.

Gaziur Rahman-2

The people in the coastal area are highly vulnerable to climatic variability and natural disaster risks as the poverty head count is very high as compared to other regions of the country. The ecosystem is more fragile to provide livelihood needs of the poor and marginal people. The specific issues of food security that are impacted by the climatic changes, impending natural disasters are not fully known; similarly the discrete coping strategies and adaptation over time and space are not fully harnessed. The government capacity (human, logistic/physical and other resources) to handle the distress situation of the people is inadequate; even the existing physical capacity is vulnerable to damage at the onset of cyclones and associated tidal surge.

Outcomes of Mongla Silo Project

The implementation of this project will help in augmentation and improvement of scientific storage and handing facilities in the second sea port of the country. As a result, it would be possible to build up certain security stock in the region for meeting any emergency: timely and quickly. It would be also possible to supply food grain to the poor