Bangladesh Famine of 1974 - Causes


As with most famines, the causes of the Bangladesh famine were multiple. These included flooding, government mismanagement of foodgrain stocks, legislation restricting movement of foodgrains between districts, foodgrain smuggling to neighbouring countries and so called distributional failures. The famine did not occur among all areas and populations but was concentrated in specific areas; particularly those hit by flooding.

In their studies of the 1974 famine, various scholars find that 1974 average foodgrain production was a 'local' peak. For this reason, scholars argue that, “food availability approach offers very little in the way of explanation of the Bangladesh famine of 1974”.p. 141 Rather, they argue that the Bangladesh famine was not caused by a failure in availability of food but in distribution (or entitlement), where one group gained “market command over food”.p. 162

Two distributional failures stand out. The first failure was internal: the specific configuration of the state rationing system and the market resulted in speculative hoarding by farmers and traders and a consequent rise in prices. The second failure was external: the US had withheld 2.2 million tonnes of food aid, as the then US Ambassador to Bangladesh made it abundantly clear that the US probably could not commit food aid because of Bangladesh's policy of exporting jute to Cuba. And by the time Bangladesh succumbed to the American pressure, and stopped jute exports to Cuba, the food aid in transit was "too late for famine victims".

Read more about this topic:  Bangladesh Famine Of 1974

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