The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a message of hope for Bangladesh at this time of coronavirus crisis. Bangladesh is going to be the third largest rice producing country thanks to the continued increase in production. For so long, Indonesia was in third place after China and India. According to the USDA report, world rice production could exceed 502 million tonnes in the 2019-20 fiscal year. Of this, 149 million tonnes are expected to be produced in China, 116 million tonnes in India and 36 million tonnes in Bangladesh. It is to be noted that after the independence, the production of rice in Bangladesh has increased three times.
For us this information is comforting. But it is a matter of concern that despite the increase in the production of agricultural produces, including paddy in Bangladesh, the situation of our farmers has not taken the right turn. Just as they are in danger due to floods, droughts, cyclones, they are also affected by not being able to harvest paddy on time and they are not getting fair prices in the market.
Due to the coronavirus crisis this year, the uncertainty over the harvesting of rice in the haor could largely be taken care of. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 75 percent of boro paddy have been harvested. The remaining 35 percent are still left. Hurricane Ampan hit the country on Wednesday. The magnitude of the cyclone is expected to cause severe damage to the crops. The Ministry of Agriculture on an emergency basis has given instructions on how to harvest and store paddy in this situation. If this is not done properly and the impact of Ampan is severe, the target to achieve boro paddy may be hampered and all types of crops may be damaged as well.
Farmers in Bangladesh have always faced problems in marketing their produce, whether it is rice, tomato, onion, potato or watermelon. If the government buys paddy directly from the farmers at the beginning of the paddy season, the farmers are likely to get a fair price. Otherwise, the storekeepers and rice mill owners eat the cream of their profit. This time we have to focus on buying paddy directly from the farmers.
For the last three years farmers have suffered losses due to not getting fair prices. Even then, they have continued to cultivate and have brought Bangladesh to the third position in paddy production. We believe that the farmers will be able to increase the production of paddy with the necessary support and cooperation.
For this, along with ensuring fair price of agricultural products, monitoring of transportation and marketing of agricultural products should be increased at every level. We need to keep in mind that in times of economic crisis, agriculture and farmers are our main refuge. In the wake of the Corona crisis, various international organizations, including the World Food Program, are fearing a global food crisis.
If Bangladesh can stay away from that, it will be our great achievement. Agriculture should be given priority in developing policy and planning. If necessary, the trend of increasing production should be continued by increasing the level of subsidy in agriculture. In an online exchange of views on the marketing of seasonal fruits and agricultural products at the Ministry of Agriculture last Saturday, the policymakers emphasized ensuring uninterrupted transport of agricultural products. Some have also said that they will subsidize the fuel used for transporting agricultural products if necessary. Hopefully, the initiative will not be limited to seminars only.