Despite government and non-government initiatives to ensure food security, five to six million ultra poor in Bangladesh still remain beyond any kind of food safety nets, according to a top civil servant.

Naser Farid, director of the Planning and Monitoring Unit of the food ministry, told a workshop in the capital Dhaka, reported today (Monday) by the Daily Star newspaper.

Dr Akhter Ahmed, a food security researcher, told the workshop that some 28 million ultra poor in Bangladesh suffer from chronic food insecurity.

The workshop was organised jointly by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Bangladesh Rice Foundation and Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.

"We have over 40 food safety net programmes to address the ultra poor and the vulnerable at the times of disaster," Farid said, adding that there has been a decline in food-based safety nets in recent years.

Referring to Monga, the near-famine situation that occurs during September-October every year in the country's northern region, Farid said it is due to lack of income diversification in that particular area.

He said despite remarkable growth in food production in the country, the number of malnourished children is on the rise. He suggested that the situation could be controlled by widening the food safety net programmes.

"The 28 million ultra poor in Bangladesh who suffer from a chronic food insecurity, take 1,800 calories per day against the minimum requirement of 2,200," said the IFPRI senior research fellow Dr Akhter Ahmed.

Any sudden natural calamities lead to acute food insecurity for the poor, he said.

Though the food production has grown considerably, nutrition intake among the poor in particular falls far short of what is required, food and disaster management minister Kamal Ibne Yusuf said at the workshop.

"At least 43% of people remain under the food-based poverty line," he said.