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20th-Jul-2020

Agriculture Sustainable Farming Is A Priority

By

Forhad H Majumder :
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - II of the UN call for eradication of hunger, provision of food security, improvement of nutritional standards and development of sustainable practices in agriculture. The Government of Bangladesh is continuing its efforts to provide food security in various ways through agricultural development, where nutrition development, employment and poverty alleviation are closely linked. According to the World Bank (2016), the single contribution of the agricultural sector of Bangladesh in poverty alleviation is significant. Over the past decade, from 2000 to 2010 So far, the poverty rate has come down from 48.1 percent to 32.5 percent in the agricultural sector alone, where about 6 percent of the rural population is dependent on agriculture. Improved seeds, more agricultural research, improved rural roads, and an efficient market system have contributed much to this success.
Bangladesh has set an example in the world in food grain production in flood, drought, salinity and hostile nature. Bangladesh is gradually moving ahead of the world average production of paddy, wheat and maize. Bangladesh is now the third largest producer of vegetables and the fourth largest producer of rice and fish in the world. Bangladesh is also at the forefront of flood, drought, salinity and disaster tolerant crop varieties.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the contribution of the agricultural sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) is 13.6 percent. In order to build the dream hunger and poverty free country, various initiatives have been taken by giving most importance to the agricultural sector and taking the development of agriculture and the welfare of the farmers into the highest consideration.Today, subsistence agriculture has been transformed into commercial agriculture due to timely measures in the agricultural sector.Bangladesh ranks tenth in the world in food grain production.
Following the increase in productivity, the target of production of granular food grains (432.11 lakh metric tons) has been exceeded (415.64 lakh metric tons) in FY 2018-19. The country has a surplus of rice today; Bangladesh is now the fourth largest rice producer in the world.
However, Covid-19 is affecting the world economy with a possibility of recession in the agricultural sector as well. Bangladesh is almost facing the same. Corona risk is hampering the continuity of agri-production in a commercial way, even though the farmers are harvesting, they are not reaping the harvest and there are not enough buyers. Thousands of metric tons of crops are being wasted due to the closure of all types of domestic and international public transport. For example, we see such happenings in litchi and other other seasonal fruits this year.
In the crop production system of Bangladesh, the period from October to March next year is called Rabi season. This season is the main season for field crop production. Due to the fact that there is not much natural hostility in this season, the crop production is safe and uninterrupted. The main food grains in this season are Boro paddy as well as major spices like wheat, maize, potato, pulses and oilseeds, onion, garlic, chilli. Every farming family spends busy time in this season. But farmers have to stay at home, cannot collect, store and sell their product. If the field crops are not properly cared for, it will have an adverse impact on agriculture.
Unfortunately, the advent of corona was a time when the country's popular seasonal fruit mango and litchi production period began. According to the Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture, Chapainawabganj produces an average of 7 lakh 66 thousand 930 metric tons of mango every year in Bangladesh. About 2 lakh metric tons is produced in Chapainawabganjdistrict,which known as the capital of mango.According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) (2019), Mango is being cultivated in 32,000 hectares or 6,195 acres of land in the country.
In this situation, the measures that need to be taken to make agriculture sustainable in the interest of food security and poverty alleviation, such as:
First, a concerted effort by farmers and buyers is needed to implement and expand sustainable agricultural systems. Innovative agricultural measures need to be taken to reduce soil fertility, use of groundwater, as well as use of harmful fertilizers and pesticides. In this regard, in the light of SDG 2030, Vision 2021 and Vision 2041, the National Agricultural Policy, 7th Five Year Plan, Sustainable Development Goals, Delta Plan: 2100 and other action plans must be fully implemented.
Secondly, the government should provide emergency financial assistance to the professionals involved in the sector, i.e. provide direct financial assistance to the farmers during the covid-19 period. In the meantime, the government has set up a refinancing scheme of Tk 3,000 (three thousand) crore 2020 from Bangladesh Bank's own funds for low-income professionals, farmers and marginal / small traders affected by the Novel Corona virus. However, the government has issued low interest rates for farmers which should be interest free and without collateral. Otherwise the term of the scheme can be extended from 3 years to 5 years.
Third, Adequate availability of necessary agricultural inputs, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation management and other agricultural implements should be ensured at the right time after the corona crisis.
Finally, the import of agricultural inputs, the import-export of food products and the internal market system of agricultural inputs should be maintained. In this case, the inter-coordination of the Ministry of Agriculture, Commerce and Food needs to be strengthened.
And of course buyers or traders need to have the mentality of buying 'quality-based' agricultural products. In other words, farmers who produce environmentally friendly agricultural products using sustainable farming methods should be interested in marketing their products.
(Forhad H Majumder is a student of Dept. of Development Economics, Dhaka School of Economics, University of Dhaka).