Dr Enayet Karim : Completing 52 years of victory, we are moving forward. Our economy is moving forward. Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in the economy of Bangladesh. Despite significant advances in the service and manufacturing sectors, the essentiality of agriculture in the economy remains unchanged due to continuous progress in food production and being one of the main sources of rural employment. Although agriculture sector contributes 13-14 percent to GDP, according to the latest labor force survey, 44 percent of the labor force is still engaged in agriculture, which means agriculture is still a major area of investment.
At what level are we in our food security at this time, the hunger we risked our lives to conquer…how much have we achieved in these 52 years? What is the future plan of Bangladesh on the issue of food safety? During the war of liberation, we raised the song of desire for independence.
I want to fill every house in Bengal with food. Hot swings in our blood in the empty youth of liberation.
The main objective of our liberation war was to eradicate hunger. To become a self-reliant nation. Basically, the struggle for freedom was that of the peasant…the worker…the common man. The red sun of freedom that has been torn from the shackles of subjugation…this victory has been won at the cost of their blood. Our struggle is still going on to ensure two handfuls of rice every day.
In 1971, the population of the country was 75 million, UNFPA, 2020). At that time food shortage was 25-30 lakh tons. In the post-independence period, great emphasis was placed on agriculture. The main goal of independence was to establish Bangladesh free from hunger and poverty. Therefore, in the hope of building a post-independence country, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s call became our slogan, if the farmer lives, the country will live. The development thought of that time was around agriculture. There were also attempts to establish agro-based industries.
Although the garment sector later became the mainstay of Bangladesh’s economy, agriculture has always served as a strong pillar. A recent report by the United Nations revealed that 34.5 million people in the world are suffering from severe food shortages. When the world is in this situation, experts have asked to emphasize on food safety. The biggest challenge to food security is climate change. How to deal with it and increase the agricultural production should be planned.
Agricultural experts say that seeds need specific temperature, humidity, rainfall and sunlight to grow, pollinate, flower and fruit, and mature. But as a result of climate change there is a long drought. Or untimely rains, floods. Winter is getting shorter or longer. In this way the elements are changed to produce the crops. But the change was not possible during sowing and planting of seedlings. As a result, crop production is faced with various problems. Farmers are also losing interest. Agricultural scientists say the average temperature has increased due to climate. And because of this, the production of some crops including wheat, chickpea, lentil, mung dal has decreased.
Bangladesh is the third largest rice producing country in the world. So far, 134 high yielding rice varieties have been developed which are salinity, drought, flood tolerant and zinc rich. We have salt, drought and flood tolerant rice varieties to protect us from calamities. But the time has come to re-examine the endurance capacity of these varieties. If necessary, new varieties should be invented. We need to keep winning the times for scientists and policy makers. Keeping in mind the advance aspect of any danger, these technologies should go to the field level.
For example, mango that used to occur in the northern part of the country, has been combated with several short duration varieties of rice. Bri paddy 33, 39 and Bina paddy 7, which are early varieties of short duration paddy; Which the farmer can take home before Kartik comes. Local farmers have conquered Manga with this new variety of rice. Our rice scientists have shown this success.
Now the question is, is there any variety of short-term Boro rice for Haor region? Not to my knowledge. However, Bri director general Dr. Shajahan Kabir said, very soon they will be able to provide short-term high-yielding rice to farmers at the Haor area. In the sixties-seventies-eighties, farmers used to cultivate IR-8 variety of paddy in Haor region; The duration of which is 170 days from planting to harvesting. Later BR-28 and 29 varieties developed by Bangladesh Rice Research Institute were cultivated as Ufshi varieties for Boro season. BR-29 can be harvested at 140 and 160 days after planting BR-28. Generally, Haor farmers are more accustomed to BR-28. Because they can harvest before the flood water comes.
Agri-business will become the main driving force of future economy. From this realization, the developed world is implementing various plans. Agriculture has also been given due importance in our Delta Plan i.e. Delta Plan-2100.
The biggest project undertaken in the agriculture sector is to ensure food and nutrition security by making agriculture sustainable and safe for the future of Bangladesh. The cost of this project named ‘Program on Agriculture and Rural Transformation for Nutrition Entrepreneurship and Resilience in Bangladesh (Partner)’ has been estimated at around Tk 7 thousand crore. It is the biggest project taken up till now for the development of agriculture. If these projects are properly implemented in real terms, as a new trend of commercial agriculture will be created, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP will also increase.
But the farmer of Bangladesh has worked to make the impossible possible. A big shock like Corona which has shattered the world economy. After that, the farmers of Bangladesh have maintained the continuity of our food production even in times of global war. However, the rise in commodity prices has left us a little worried. But our agricultural production has kept the situation normal, bypassing the indications of global food shortage.
From ‘bottomless basket’ to food self-sufficiency in Bangladesh today. During this period the rice-jute growing country became unique in its agricultural diversity. Not only crop agriculture, but the unique success of poultry, cattle, fisheries sector has created the circle of food security. Even ten years ago, the northern horror manga sounds like a story today. This success is due to the timely planning of farmers, researchers, government.
We want to discuss the future prospects, crises and challenges of our main crop rice. I believe – a sound action plan will create future food security, agriculture-based sustainable economy.
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