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Food crisis feared as floods hit crop in 450,000 hectares land

By bdnews24.com
18th-Aug-2017       
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An agriculturist has warned a food crisis as hundreds of thousands of hectares of arable land have gone under water in around two dozen districts.
Government officials say normal production will be possible again through rehabilitation of the farmers once the water subsides in a few days. But the signs force agriculture expert Dr Asaduzzaman fear that the water is not receding soon; the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre forecast is also backing his fears.
Dr Asaduzzaman, a former research director at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, told bdnews24.com on Wednesday, "If the water recedes completely within August, it will be possible for the farmers to offset the losses with the help of the government." "But the current signs indicate that the floods may prolong," he added. He also thinks the government is 'not taking necessary steps' to address the possible food crisis. "The government is busy with a court verdict instead of giving attention to food security," he said.
"In my knowledge, the government has only around 250,000 tonnes of food in its warehouses. But we should stock up at least 1 to 1.2 million foodgrains," he added.
According to the food ministry, the government had 434,000 tonnes food reserves, including 287,000 tonnes rice, on Aug 10. With such food reserves, swathes of arable land of the country are under water during the cropping season of Aman. According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, in the current Ropa Aman season, over 31 million hectares of land have been cultivated, but more than 450,000 hectares have been submerged in 33 districts.
This is the initial data. Now the floods are spreading to the central districts from the north and northeast, raising fears of more impact on crops. The DAE's Deputy Director Md Tazul Islam Patwary told bdnews24.com that currently the arable lands have Ropa Aman, Aman seedbed, vegetables, Bona Aman and Aush planted on them.
"Some of the areas have been flooded. We can't tell you the exact figure of the flood-hit land until the water subsides," he said. Officials at the department said Aman crop in some areas would survive the flooding while there would be more time for cropping if the water recedes soon.
Dinajpur is one of the main producers of rice in Bangladesh. The district is worst hit by the floods this year.
In Dinajpur and adjacent Panchagarh and Thakurgaon districts, around 163,000 hectares of land with paddy have been submerged, officials said. DAE Additional Director Md Zulfiker Haider told bdnews24.com farmers in these three districts cultivated Aman on 455,000 hectares of land.
"Around 10 to 20 percent crop may have been damaged. We are yet to figure out the extent of the damage," he said. He also said water subsided in 80 percent areas until Wednesday. "Now we will turn our attention to recoup the losses." The department will distribute Aman plants among the farmers along with other rehabilitation programmes, he said. Food Minister Qamrul Islam, sensing the impact of the floods on food, announced import of 1.5 million tonnes of rice and 500,000 tonnes of wheat on Wednesday.
The government has also decided to slash rice import duty to 2 percent from the existing 10 percent.

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