The country’s agricultural sector may seem flourishing thanks to the bumper production of paddy but at the same time it is apparent that the sector is facing a dire crisis. The viral scene of fire on the paddy field gives us a glimpse of the crisis – of farmers’ anger and frustration for not being able to recoup their production cost, let alone getting a fair price.
Juxtaposed with the images of burning paddy field, photos of hundreds of tonnes of imported rice being unloaded in ports looked not only odd but also raised some disturbing questions. The first and foremost question is why. When local production of the staple food is abundant and Agriculture Minister is calling for exporting rice, then why on earth it is being imported?However, it is reassuring that a parliamentary watchdog on Monday asked the government to stop import of rice both at public and private levels. We also demand an immediate halt in rice import.
It is believed that a good portion of the imported rice is basmati rice that is not locally produced. But we must remember that our own aromatic rice varieties – Kalijira and Chinigura – are much better both in taste and aroma than basmati. And yet, certain well-off sections in society buy basmati rice at two or three times higher price than Kalijira and Chinigura. This is nothing but a cheap mentality of showing off one’s ‘higher status’ in society. We must not encourage this type of self-defeating and self-disrespecting attitude.
Today we as a nation can take pride in attaining self-sufficiency in terms of food production. This would not have been happened without farmers’ relentless efforts and the government’s necessary policy support and subsidies in agricultural sector. Now this tremendous achievement will go in vein if farmers are deprived of a fair price.
Doing away with the middlemen is the best way to ensure a fair price to the farmers. In order to do that the government should procure paddy and rice directly from farmers.
Rising production cost of rice is also a cause for concern. High labour cost due to shortage of labourers is mainly responsible. Application of smart harvest technologies can be cost-effective.