Minister, state minister raise question on BBS operation, capacity

Planning minister MA Manna (2nd from left) attends an event on unveiling the Agricultural Census 2019 by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics at its office in Agagaon, Dhaka on 27 December 2022.
Prothom Alo

Planning minister MA Manna has expressed doubt over data reveled in various census of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics while state minister for planning Shamsul Alam has raised question on operation and capacity of the state-run agency.

The BBS released the Agricultural Census 2019 at an event at its office in the capital’s Agargaon on Tuesday, where both minister and state minister vented anger on the quality and capacity of this agency.

Planning minister MA Manan thinks that data on cattle that the BBS presented is not correct. He said cow implies all the cows inside the country and goat implies all the goats inside the country, but why there are so many differences over data on cattle. He questioned why BBS released data on household cattle excluding commercial farms.

Cattle are reared in households as well as commercial farms, but BBS’s agricultural census counted household cattle not those from commercial farms and that was not correct, the minister added.

State minister for planning Shamsul Alam expressed dissatisfaction over a three-year delay in publishing the agricultural census. He said agricultural census is supposed to be conducted in every 10 years and the BBS could not do. BBS could not publish the census on time either, he added.

BBS’s Statistics and Informatics Division secretary Shahnaz Arefin and BBS director general Motiar Rahman were present at the event while BBS’s agriculture wing director Alauddin Al Aazad presented the census report.

Cattle on the rise, but question on actual number

According to BBS, the number of cattle increased by 3.8 million to 29.5 million in 2019 from 25.7 million in 2008 while the number of goats rose by 3.1 million to 19.4 million in 2019 from 16.3 million in 2008.

Since the census covers household cattle, planning minister raised questions on the process of collecting data saying that there should be data on cattle from both households and commercial establishments in the census to reveal the actual figure.

Replying to a query from newspersons on discrepancy in cattle data of the BBS and the livestock service department, the planning minister admitted that there is a lack of coordination between both the government agencies on cattle data.

State minister for planning Shamsul Alam said it is the responsibility of BBS to provide the national data and any government agency can collect data, but the respective agency should let BBS review the collected data and the livestock service department does not do so.

“I think the livestock service department should inform the BBS before publishing their data and then it will be possible to remove confusion.”

Criticism on other data

According to the census, land for seasonal crops increased to 17.6 million acres in 2019 from 16.4 million acres in 2008.

Planning minister raised questions on definition of land for temporary crops saying, “I am from village and I grew up there, but I never heard of it."

Replying to a query on number of farmers, agriculture census 2019 project director Alauddin Al Azad said the census did not assess the number of farmers, as questioners were not prepared for it.

They counted the number of agriculture families and agricultural labour households, he said auguring that children help father in agriculture in many families and children cannot be considered as farmers, that is why number of farmers is not counted.

Planning minister MA Mannan was satisfied over the project director’s explanation. “These is an old habit and we are bureaucrats and we are accustomed to work on traditional ways. We must break this tradition,” the minister said.

Arable land decreases, agriculture households increase

According to the census, agriculture households increased by 1.7 million in the past 11 years to 16.9 million in 2019 from 15.52 million in 2008 while arable land decreased by 400,000 acres to 18.7 million acres in 2019 from 19.1 acres in 2008.

Replying to a query on how agriculture households see a rise amid a decline in arable land, planning minister MA Mannan said agriculture households increase as joint families are breaking and nuclear families are increasing in the country while arable land decreases due to rise in households.

Buffalo, chicken on the rise

Number of chickens has increased to 199.4 million from 97.80 million in 2008 and number of ducks rose to 74.4 million from 39.4 million in 2008 while number of buffaloes grew to 636,000 from 441,000 in 2008.

Unused land sees a rise

According to the census report, amount of unused land increased by 94,000 acres in the past 11 years to 244,000 acres in 2019 from 150,000 acres in 2008. The government has been encouraging people to use all fallow land since the coronavirus pandemic broke out.

Use of harvesting machines on the rise

According to the census, currently 916,000 harvesting machines are being used in agriculture sector of the country – up from 627,000 while number of power tillers has increased to 355,000 from 146,000.

Expressing dissatisfaction over BBS operation, state minister for planning Shamshul Alam said agricultural census is supposed to be carried out, but BBS does not follow it. The previous agricultural census was conducted in 2008, thus, this latest census was supposed to be done in 2018, but the BBS started it in 2019 and published the report in 2022.

The government had to formulate the eighth five-year plan with 10-year old data because of delay in publishing the census report, he said.