Mahfuja Mukul: Farmers are under ‘two-way pressure’ due to increase in prices of urea fertilizer and diesel in the country. As a result, some are thinking of reducing cultivation or keeping the land fallow from the next season. Economists also say that if the budget is not adjusted, farmers will be forced to cultivate less land than before. There is a danger that the production of rice in the country will be greatly reduced.
Some economists say that there is a danger of food crisis in the country if the price of fertilizer and diesel increases. In the future, Bangladesh will have to import more food grains than before. However, the Ministry of Agriculture of the government is dismissing these fears.
Agricultural economist Jahangir Alam Khan said, “If the price of fertilizer and diesel increases, the farmer will face financial crisis. Cultivation of current season seedlings may be disrupted. The yield will not be as expected. Farmers will be discouraged from cultivation in the next boro season as well.
Because more irrigation and fertilizers are required during Boro season. Many may be out of boro cultivation.
Stating that there is a fear of more food grains import, this economist said, “This year the government has set a target of 1.5 lakh tons of food grains import.
In the future, maybe 20 to 25 lakh tons of food grains may have to be imported.
He also said, ‘If the price of fuel oil increases, the cost of marketing agricultural products will also increase. Because the cost of transportation will increase. This will reduce the real income of the farmer. All in all, farmers will be discouraged from producing. Rural towns will be adversely affected. As the cost-of-living increases, inflation will further increase in rural life.
Due to the increase in the price of fertilizer and diesel, there is a fear of a huge food crisis in the country – said another agricultural economist and former research director of BIDS. M Asaduzzaman said, “If the cost of fuel increases, the cost of bringing agricultural products to the market will increase. Farmers and consumers will be worse off on all fronts. There is a danger of a huge food shortage in the country due to the increase in electricity and fuel prices. The farmer will be under severe pressure from all sides.
Explaining, this economist further said, ‘Raising the price of urea fertilizer may not have much effect. The cost of production will not increase much. But when a farmer used to spend two thousand rupees earlier, now he has to spend only two and a half thousand taka. That money is not in the hands of the farmer. A farmer who used to cultivate three bighas of land before increases the price of oil along with fertilizers, now he may cultivate two bighas of land. And many may not cultivate at all. Because the borough cannot be irrigated. There is a danger of reducing the total production.
He said, ‘Boro season produces the most food grains. If even 10 percent production declines in Boro, it will cause huge loss to the country. Aman production will be less this year due to lack of rain. Again, due to lack of rain, the water layer will also go down. This will increase the cost of electricity and fuel for irrigation during Boro season. Water may not be available again.
Meanwhile, farmers also expressed their concern. He told farmers of Gafargaon upazila of Mymensingh will become difficult to do agricultural work from the next season if the price of oil and fertilizer increases. Maybe no more agricultural work can be done. The land may have to be kept fallow. Maybe this season is over!’
Farmer Himel Kabir of Pakundia Upazila in Kishoreganj told, “We don’t get the price of rice at all.” In the meantime, all costs have already increased. Now the price of oil and fertilizer increased again. The cost will increase, where will I get that money? If you don’t get money, you have to keep the land fallow.’
Ruhul, a farmer of Badarganj upazila of Rangpur said, “During the Boro season, I cultivate paddy on three and a half bigha land. All have to be irrigated by diesel engine. Now the cost of irrigation will increase, and the cost of fertilizer will also be higher. If the cost increases, we may have to reduce paddy cultivation.
According to the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC), out of two crore farmers in the country, about 75 percent of the farmers irrigate their land through diesel-powered inchins during the five months of the boro season (December-April).
The demand of diesel in agriculture is 9.72 tons, which is 21.15 percent of the total diesel consumption. Of this, there is a demand of about 8 lakh tonnes of diesel only in Boro season. Diesel used in agriculture used to cost Tk 8 crore annually. As a result of increasing the price of diesel by Tk 34, this cost will now reach around Tk 11.5 crore. In other words, the cost of diesel will increase by 42.5 percent.
On the other hand, the price of urea fertilizer has already been increased by Tk 6 per kg to Tk 22. According to the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRI), 23 kg of urea is used per bigha of land for Aman rice cultivation and 30 kg for Boro rice cultivation. In this way only the use of urea will increase the cost of 37.5 percent per bigha of land.
Asked for comments, BADC’s member director (minor irrigation) Dhirendra Chandra Debnath told, “Increasing the price of diesel will not have any effect on the irrigation system.” If the farmer can adopt good irrigation practices, not using excess water, then the cost of production will not increase in that sense. Farmers are used to using excessive water for paddy production during Boro season. They may stop using excess water now that the price of diesel is increasing. Irrigation will not be affected as much as the price of fuel has gone up.
Incidentally, to keep the use of urea fertilizer at a reasonable level and due to the abnormal increase in the price of fertilizer in the international market, the government has increased the maximum retail price of urea fertilizer from Tk 14 per kg to Tk 20 per kg at dealer level and Tk 22 per kg at farmer level from Tk 16 to Tk 22.
Meanwhile, recently the government has increased the price of all types of fuel oil. The Energy and Mineral Resources Department has fixed the price of diesel at the consumer level at Tk 114, kerosene at Tk 114, octane at Tk 135 and petrol at Tk 130. In other words, diesel has increased from Tk 80 to Tk 114 per liter, kerosene has increased Tk 34 to Tk 114, octane has increased Tk 46 to Tk 135 and petrol has increased Tk 46 to Tk 130.
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