With the harvesting of Boro paddy set to begin in full swing this week, farmers fear a crisis of labourers due to the strict lockdown aimed at containing the coronavirus transmission.
The government has taken different measures to ensure maximum crop yield to boost the food grain stock and the Ministry of Agriculture has taken different initiatives to ensure smooth paddy harvesting even amid the ongoing shutdown.However, labourers are unwilling to go outside their own areas due to the lockdown and fearing for their lives amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The Boro cultivation started in November-December. Farmers are now ready to harvest the paddy across the country. The harvesting of Boro paddy has already started in Haor areas while it will begin in other areas within a week.
Boro accounts for more than 50 per cent of the country's total rice production while Aush less than 10 per cent, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
Although the Ministry of Agriculture is making special arrangements for transportation of labourers from different districts to the country's granaries, workers are unwilling to leave home fearing coronavirus infection.
Moinul Islam, a farmer from Sadar upazila of Natore, told the Daily Sun that the transport crisis is the main obstacle to getting farm labourers at this harvest time. “The natural follow of farm labourers is being hampered due to the lockdown. Workers are not coming from other areas following the suspension of vehicular movement amid the lockdown,” he said.
If this situation continues and the lockdown is extended further, they will face a crisis of labourersduring the paddy harvesting, he said.
Moinul said many farm labourers got panicked due to the coronavirus transmission while a little number of workers are asking higher wages for harvesting paddy.
Like him, other farmers of the district are also in a fear that they might not get workers for harvesting paddy as people are not going outside due to restrictions.
The entire country is now under lockdown. People are instructed to stay at home and going outside after sunset is now considered a legal offence.
Director (Field Service Wing) of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) AKM Monirul Alam told the Daily Sun that 3,000 combined harvesters have been deployed to harvest paddy across the country while one combined harvester is able to meet the demand of 120 labourers.
“There’ll no labour crisis this year as many rickshaw-pullers, day labourers and other workers went to their villages due to the shutdown. They can fulfil the demand for farm labourers during the time,” he said.
“A total 2.5 per cent harvesting of Boro cultivated on 4,838,500 hectares of land has already been completed across the country till Friday. Boro harvesting is continuing in all five Haor districts, Agailjhara upazila in Barishal and some parts of Jashore district,” said the DAE official.
Boro paddy is ready to be harvested all across the country. Harvesting of the Boro paddy will be completed within next one month.
According to the BBS, farmers from around 25 districts are dependent on farm labourers from other places at the harvest time.
Each year, farm labourers from different regions go to Haors and other paddy harvesting areas but this year they are not willing to do so after being panicked following the coronavirus outbreak and due to the lockdown.
The country has a total of 165.63 lakh farmers. Of them, 78.62 per cent are small and 6.83 per cent are marginal.
The number of farm labourer families is 90.96 lakh, accounting for 25.6 per cent of 3.55 crore total households in Bangladesh, according to the BBS data.
Rajshahi division provides 18 per cent of total rice production while Rangpur and Dhaka divisions account for 17 per cent, Mymensingh provides 14 per cent, Khulna and Chattogram each 13 per cent, Sylhet 5 per cent and Barishal division 3 percent.
Mymensingh tops the rice-producing districts followed by Naogaon, Bogura, Dinajpur, Tangail, Jashore, Cumilla, Sirajganj, Rangpur, Netrakona, Jamalpur, Kishoreganj, Gaibandha and Chandpur.