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Bangladesh - 3 weeks ago

Rice production decreasing but increasing population

Farmers lost interest in rice

Mahfuja Mukul: The government aims to double rice productivity in the country (compared to 2015) by 2030 to ensure food security for the growing population. For this reason, although various plans and initiatives have been taken, the production can’t be increased to the desired level. Rather, the growth rate of rice production in the country has fallen below the annual population growth rate. According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) ‘Sample Vital Statistics-2023’ data, the annual population normal growth rate (RNI) in the country in 2023 was 1.33 percent, which was 1.4 percent in the previous year. Besides, the inter-census average population growth rate is 1.12 percent. And in the analysis of the data of the Ministry of Agriculture, the growth rate of rice production in the country was less than 1 percent in the last 3 financial years.
Experts blame the reduction of arable land and lack of new manpower in agriculture for the slow growth of rice production. Their statement in this regard is that structural changes are taking place in the agricultural sector very rapidly. The area of arable land is decreasing. Farmers are switching to other crops due to increase in cost of production and not getting the desired price for rice. Again, the volatility of the dollar exchange rate is slowing down the pace of mechanization in agriculture. Due to this instability, the farmers are not able to take advantage of the lower production cost. In this situation, many are leaving agriculture.
According to the data of the Ministry of Agriculture, in the fiscal year 2020-21, the production of rice in the country was 3.86 crore tonnes. The same amount of rice was produced in the country in the previous financial year as well. Accordingly, the growth rate of rice production in the fiscal year 2020-21 was zero. Then in the financial year 2021-22, the total production of food grains stood at 3.89 crore tonnes. The growth rate was 78.78 percent. In the fiscal year 2022-23, the production of rice increased by only 26 percent to 3.90 crore tons. Each time the rice production in the country fell short of the target.
Besides increasing the speed of mechanization in agriculture, agricultural economist Jahangir Alam Khanthinks that it will not be possible to increase the production of rice to the desired level without taking subsidy and incentive measures. He said, “Due to the increase in dollar exchange rate, the import cost of machinery has increased. As a result, the pace of agricultural mechanization is slow. It should be fast. Again, the cost of paddy production has also increased. Irrigation expenditure has increased. 65 percent of farmers still depend on petrol for irrigation. Therefore, the subsidy should be increased here.
Emeritus Professor of Bangladesh Agricultural University MA Sattar Mandalbelieves that rice production can’t be increased as per the target due to reduction of agricultural land and disinterest of young people in agriculture. He expressed doubts even about achieving the target of doubling its production.
In this context, he told that, “Agricultural land is decreasing in the country at the rate of 10.5 percent every year. Again, the number of farmers is also decreasing due to the lack of interest of the youth in agriculture. This has created a challenge to achieve the target of doubling rice production. Although advanced technology has come in agriculture. New varieties are also coming. And young entrepreneurs are also cultivating fish or other crops. They are growing potatoes, maize, wheat and tomatoes or other crops with export in mind. Sesame or mustard is being cultivated in high land. So, should we export cash crops and import rice? Maybe young people will come to commercial agriculture, but they will not go to rice farming. And the marginal farmer may somehow survive to maintain a livelihood. As a result, the production of rice will not increase as per the target.
A rising dollar exchange rate makes agricultural mechanization more expensive. According to the stakeholders, through mechanization it is possible to increase the productivity in agriculture and reduce the cost of production. But at present the cost of importing machinery and parts has increased the price of agricultural machinery. As a result, it has become difficult for farmers to buy these machines even if they want.
The president of ACI Agribusiness Division FH Ansari thinks that the increase in the price of agricultural machinery is making the farmer uninterested in mechanization. He said, “The price of a harvester machine for harvesting paddy has risen to Tk 42 lakh due to the increase in the exchange rate of the dollar.” It is becoming difficult for a farmer to raise Tk 20 lakh even with subsidy. Tk 18-20 are spent to produce one kg of paddy through machinery. But in traditional method per kg paddy cost is Tk 30. Similarly, if one hectare of land is harvested by laborers, the cost is Tk 30,000. But if you use the equipment on rent, the cost is reduced by half to Tk 14 thousand. And if you have your own machine, it comes down to Tk 6-7 thousand. But we are able to use machines only in 14 percent cases of paddy harvesting. Only 2 percent has been mechanized in paddy planting. Therefore, in order to reduce the production cost of rice through mechanization, it is necessary to give subsidy at the rate of 80 percent to the farmers across the country. In this, the use of equipment will increase rapidly, and production costs will also decrease.
Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRI) is working to double rice productivity by 2030. On the occasion of Mujib centenary in 2021, the organization formulated a strategy paper titled ‘Doubling Rice Productivity’ (DRP). It is said that by 2030, by doubling the productivity of rice, it is possible to take the production to 4.69 crore tons.
Although there is room for relief only with the production of rice in Bangladesh, Brri Director General Dr. Md. Shah Jahan Kabir said. He said only rice production in the country is in a comfortable position. Production of other crops including potato has decreased. But we are moving towards our goal. It is hoped that the productivity of rice will double before 2030.
If you want to know about the whole matter, the former Minister of State for Planning Shamsul Alam said, ‘Structural changes are coming in agriculture. Farmers are now cultivating fruits without getting proper price of paddy. Mango orchards are growing in North Bengal. Somewhere malt is being cultivated. There is a pond in the land. Someone is doing a poultry farm. Infrastructure is being built on the agricultural land beside the road. As a result, the land is also decreasing. Inflation has increased the cost of agricultural inputs like irrigation and fertilizers. Therefore, if rice cultivation is not made profitable, it will be difficult to maintain the current productivity. For this, the cost of materials should be reduced. Mechanization should be increased. Improved productive seeds have to be developed.

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