Who will save our farmers?

Farmer Abdul Azim collects Boro paddy saplings from his seedbed. The picture was taken from Sarail in Brahmanbaria on 28 January.Badur Uddin

Agriculture is not just the lifeline of Bangladesh’s economy, it is an integral part of our culture and heritage. Most of the people in this country are somehow related to agriculture. Someone may be a businessman, bureaucrat or professor among us, but their roots are agriculture and farming. We should not forget our origins.

I personally have a great affinity for agriculture and cultivation. Bountiful crops is a blessing of nature.

Only agriculture can save a country in its times of danger. That was proven again during the Covid-19 pandemic period when maximum business activities were shut down, people were shattered and their earning sources were in tatters. Then only the agriculture sector stood for this nation. Rice, and all agricultural production, was satisfactory. We should always salute our farmers for their relentless effort to save this country.

After Aman, now it's the time of Boro. Farmers and farm-workers are spending busy days in their fields cultivating boro, the largest rice crop in Bangladesh.

 As a journalist with deep love for farming, I feel heartbroken to know that the production costs of Boro paddy is rising this year. A special report published in the Daily Star on 26 January informed us of a 25 per cent rise in the production costs of Boro cultivation.

How can a farmer benefit from their Boro land? Some observers say, let alone profit, boro farmers may not get back their production costs

Boro is mostly dependent on irrigation. Last year, the price of diesel, an essential part of agriculture, rose by 42.5 per cent, while the price of urea fertilizer leaped up to Tk 22 from Tk 16 per kilogram in 2021. The retail price of electricity has also hiked by 5%

And pesticide, seeds, increased wages of daily laborers, all are soaring. Production costs per each bigha of land is now an estimated Tk 19,900, Tk 5000 higher than the previous year. This cost will be even higher in the coming days.

This is the actual situation. How can a farmer benefit from their Boro land? Some observers say, let alone profit, boro farmers may not get back their production costs.

And what is the condition of landless farmers? Maybe worse. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) on Agriculture Census 2019, one-fourth of the country's farmer families are still landless.


Boro accounts for 54 percent of the country's annual rice production. So, we should not take any step that hampers our total production. A good yield of Boro is particularly important this year because of the concerns over food security. The coarse rice price is still higher despite better Aman production. Then, what is the solution?

Renowned agricultural economist Jahangir Alam Khan thinks, the government should immediately start providing farmers with cash support, which can compensate the increased input costs. If the government does not provide them with subsidies, the price of Boro will rise.

I also stand by Jahangir Alam Khan's thinking. But, it is a temporary solution. We need to focus on a permanent answer.

Abu Bakar, a farmer from my village Mulghar, Fakirhat, Bagerhat, just informed me that MP (Muriate of Potash) fertilizer is not available in the local market. And local traders are not interested to sell fertilizer and pesticides at government-fixed rates. They have nothing to do but buy.

Now cash support to the farmers is crucial. Government should take proper steps to start this immediately through a 'farmer card'. At the same time, it is necessary to have a smooth supply of fertilizers and pesticides in the local market, so that farmers can buy at a fair price.

Farmers are the actual friends of the society. They deserve our complete and sincere support.

* Kazi Alim-uz-zaman is Deputy News Editor, Prothom Alo. He can be reached via [email protected]