Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday reiterated her call to the countrymen to boost food production for their own, urging them to cut dependency on imported products alongside increasing exports to tackle any crisis.
“Dependency on imported products has to be cut down and we all should try it,” she said.
The prime minister made this call while delivering her valedictory speech at the 20th session of the 11th Parliament this evening.
Laying importance on intensifying the production, she told parliament that her government has been trying to increase the export for earning foreign currency.
“Our (the government) only endeavour is to keep the country’s people well and healthy,” she said.
Mentioning that the country now has a storage of 15,73,485 tonnes of food grains, the prime minister said there is nothing to worry here.
Besides, discussion is going on to import another 530,000 tonnes of rice from India, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam while few agreements have also been done already to this end, she informed the Jatiya Sangsad.
In addition, works on importing 650,000 tonnes of wheat are going on, she said, adding imported rice and wheat has already started to arrive in the country from Ukraine and adjacent regions as Russia lifted the ban on export.
“But, it will take some time as a few more ships are waiting to arrive at our ports,” she said.
Produce whatever you can and collect your food. I made this call as a precautionary measure
Sheikh Hasina noted the good news is that Aman crops in the country are growing well and the production is expected to exceed 163 lakh tonnes beyond the target of 149.58 lakh tonnes although flood and cyclone hit the country.
She revealed that the government is taking measures to collect the rice from farmers by increasing Tk 2.
Similarly, the country is able to yield Aus crop beyond the target while Boro production will also exceed the target, she added.
“Actually, we are laying emphasis on food production,” she said, referring to her call to the people since the Covid-19 pandemic to produce food whatever they can in every inch of land.
“Produce whatever you can and collect your food,” she reiterated, saying that the crisis is the outcome of war and sanction. “I made this call (to the countrymen for food production) as a precautionary measure”, she added.
The prime minister said that they will not leave any inch of land uncultivated in the upcoming Robi season.
She, however, again made her call to the countrymen to exercise austerity alongside saving.
The head of the government asked the MPs to go to their constituency and make aware the people so that they don’t do any wastage.
“We can overcome this crisis easily if we practice austerity and stop wastage,” she added.
‘Good reserve’ of foreign currencies
The prime minister said Bangladesh still has a good reserve of foreign currencies which is enough to meet up the five-month import expenditures.
“The forex reserve was US$ 35.72 billion on 3 November, 2022. Still it is possible to import goods for five months with our reserve of foreign currencies. But the forex to meet up three-month import expenditures is enough according to the international standards,” she told the House.
Sheikh Hasina said everyone now talks about the reserve and everyone has become expert over it. But the reserve was only US$ 2.12 billion in 1996 but her government raised it to nearly US$ 4 billion in 2001, she added.
She said the Awami League government, assuming power again in 2009, found the forex reserve of US$ 5.35 billion on 6 January, 2009, which was raised to 17.47 billion on 8 January, 2014, US$ 32.09 billion on 7 January, 2019, US$ 36.04 billion on 30 June, 2020 and 46.39 billion on 30 June, 2021.
She continued that the forex reserve went up to nearly US$ 48 billion during the Covid-19 as the import of goods declined sharply and the capital machinery was not imported during the pandemic.
But, when the Covid restrictions were withdrawn, the imports of goods normally increased and so, the forex reserve declined, she added.
She, however, stressed the need for reducing the import of luxurious goods and imposition of high taxes on the import of less necessary products.
Besides, Sheikh Hasina, in her speech, focused on the government’s steps taken to ensure enough stock of foods, to ease the dollar crisis, to lessen import expenditures and to expand food-friendly programmes including OMS.
She also highlighted subsidies to different sectors, expansion of the social safety net, the export growth, dengue outbreak, the amount of the government’s loans and foreign debts.
In her speech regarding the dengue outbreak, the prime minister called upon the country’s people to keep their house and adjacent areas clean to prevent the mosquito-based disease.
Mentioning that the government is taking necessary measures to kill mosquitoes, she said “everyone in their house has to protect themselves by their own.”
The Aedes mosquito lays its eggs on the walls of water-filled containers and others for its proliferation, she said adding everyone has to make their house clean.
Regarding the present situation, the prime minister said now Bangladesh also faces the consequences of the global economic crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine war, sanctions and counter-sanctions following the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Bangladesh is not isolated from it. Bangladesh is to suffer its consequences,” she said.
She said inflation has hit dire records in almost all the countries across the world. The continuous rise in the value of the dollar against different currencies deepened the crisis further, she added.
About the subsidy, the prime minister said the government needs to provide additional subsidies to different sectors including electricity, energy, food imports, and food-friendly programmes due to the crisis. The total demand for subsidy has increased by Tk 105,105 crore, she said.
Talking about the food, she said there is nothing to be worried about as there is a stock of 1,573,485 tons of food grains right now. Besides, the government has taken steps to import more foods.
Sheikh Hasina said now 29 per cent of families in the country were brought under the social safety net and different food-friendly programmes were strengthened and OMS (Open Market Sale) scheme was taken up to Upazilas.
“We’ve taken preparation to provide a larger amount of essentials to the poor through OMS,” she said.
“We’ve been working for the people of the country. We’re making our best efforts so that the people of the country remain well,” she said.
The head of government said the export earnings and remittance inflow witnessed positive growth of 7 per cent and 2 per cent respectively during the July-October period of the current fiscal year, while the LoC (letter of credit) opened for import declined by 11.7 per cent.
She said the government has taken special eyes so that there would be no dollar crisis in the country from January 2023.
About the foreign debt, Sheikh Hasina said the total loan of the government is only 36 per cent of the GDP and its foreign debt is only 13.5 per cent of the GDP. “After formation of the Awami League government, we (Bangladesh) never failed to repay loans or loan defaulters and will not be a failure in future,” she said.
“We’ve been trying our best to keep our economy vibrant,” said the prime minister.
Later, the 20th session of the current parliament, which lasted for six sittings, was prorogued.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury read out the prorogation order of the president for the session that started on 30 October.