Rice production rising high in Bangladesh

Rice in the marketFile photo

Bangladesh is likely to achieve the highest growth rate of rice production in the world in the next one year, according to a report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN).

In the upcoming months between July and December, the Global Food Outlook report published on Thursday says the country's rice-production may increase by 1.8 per cent in the 2023-24 fiscal as compared to the last year.

It also says that India and Pakistan, the two major rice-exporting countries, had to reduce rice export as the production was less than the prediction.

Vietnam and Thailand will have to export less than their targets. India’s rice-export will be reduced by 4 million tonnes as compared to last year.

Bangladesh also had to import 2.65 million tonnes of rice due to low production two years ago. However, it has come down to 800,000 tonnes as a result of good production this year.

The UN agency publishes this report every six months. It says wheat production in Bangladesh has also increased by 100,000 tonnes.

According to the Global Food Outlook report, China still tops the list of rice-producing countries. The country yielded some 140.2 million tonnes of rice last year, which may reach up to 143.4 million tonnes in the 2023-24 fiscal.

India is next to China in the list. India’s net rice production last year was some 130.8 million tonnes. It may increase to 131 million tonnes next year. The growth rate of rice production in India could be around 1 per cent next year.

Bangladesh is in the third place of the list after India. Bangladesh produced some 38.3 million tonnes of rice last year. Rice production in the country is likely to reach 38.9 million tonnes next year. The production is likely to increase by 1.8 per cent, which may be 1 per cent in Indonesia and Thailand during the same time period. Rice production in Vietnam is likely to increase by .3 per cent.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published two reports this month. The same scenario of rise in the production of main crops in Bangladesh also came up in the report titled “Grain: World Market and Trade”.

The report says that rice production in Bangladesh has increased by 750,000 tonnes as compared to last year. Therefore, the amount of rice-import has declined.

Amid the ongoing financial problems, including the dollar crisis, Bangladesh is in a bit of comfortable situation comparatively in terms of the food situation.

When asked, agriculture minister Abdur Razzaque told Prothom Alo, “Bangladesh has passed a critical phase in terms of food due to the Russia-Ukraine war. The rise in rice production is the result of increasing the use of machinery in harvesting crops and popularisation of the newly invented eco-tolerant varieties. Besides, the production cost remained within reach due to the uninterrupted supply of subsidies from the government for the agricultural sector and we are getting all the benefits now.”

Price of coarse rice beyond reach despite bumper crop

The USDA published another report on the food situation in Bangladesh at the beginning of this month. It has mentioned the bumper production of rice in the Boro season. The report says some 21 million tonnes of Boro rice has been produced this year.

As a result, the price of medium quality rice has decreased up to 2 per cent in the last month. However, the prices of coarse and fine rice have not come down. The price of coarse flour is also rising.

Analysing the figures of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, the USDA said that medium quality rice was sold at Tk 55 per kg in May, while the price of coarse rice was Tk 50 per kg and fine rice Tk 75 per kg. The price of per kg unpackaged coarse flour was Tk 58 and packaged coarse flour Tk 65. Meanwhile, unpackaged flour was being sold at Tk 65 per kg and packaged flour at Tk 75.

According to the global report of the USDA, the price of wheat skyrocketed following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The price of coarse flour in Bangladesh rose as the import fell. People started eating rice instead of coarse flour. As a result, the total amount of eating rice in the country has increased by 1.5 million tonnes in a year.

This correspondent spoke to the researchers of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and Bangladesh Agricultural University regarding the high price of coarse rice despite bumper production.

They said the production of coarse rice has been falling for more than a decade in Bangladesh. At the same time, the production of medium quality rice is increasing.

The price of coarse is rising as its production decreases due to low demand.

The World Food Programme’s (WFP) latest report on the food situation of Bangladesh said people below the poverty line have cut their budget for health, education and nutrition. They have increased their budget for rice.

According to the agriculture ministry, Bangladesh produced around 40 million tonnes of rice in the last fiscal. Of this, 21 million tonnes are Boro rice and 6 million is coarse rice. The amount of fine and medium quality rice produced in the last fiscal was 15 million tonnes.

Most of the varieties, which have been invented in the last decade, are producing medium quality rice mainly. Around 50 varieties of Boro are being cultivated in the country now. Of these, the BR-28 and BRRI-29 variants of medium quality rice provide 40 per cent of the total rice production.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, BRRI director general Md Shahjahan Kabir said, “The new variants of medium quality rice have become more popular among the farmers due to their high yielding nature. At the same time, the farmers also get a good price for it. Therefore, we are focusing on inventing varieties rich in zinc, vitamins and nutrients."

Machine-dependency increases production

The agricultural experts think the use of machinery in agriculture has increased over the last 12 years. The agricultural sector has also had some positive impacts due to rising food prices around the world, especially during the Corona period and after the Russia-Ukraine war.

The farmers and entrepreneurs are investing more in this sector as the prices of rice and wheat in the country rose. Therefore, the use of agricultural machineries has increased.

Former vice-chancellor of the Bangladesh Agricultural University and emeritus professor Sattar Mandal said, “At least three of the five areas of rice production have been completely mechanised. Almost all the farmers now use power tillers, motorised small irrigation machines and motorised harvesters. As a result, rice production in Bangladesh is increasing at a rapid speed.”

Sattar Mandal further said, “However, people should invest and focus more on inventing new varieties of fine and medium quality rice. However, the Social Safety Net Programme for the extreme poor people must go on.”