Saturday, 22 January, 2022

Increasing agricultural productivity

Speakers at a discussion meeting in Dhaka on Monday rightly pointed out that farmers should be given fair price for their crops so that Bangladesh can increase agricultural productivity and alleviate poverty. 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.

But farmers, the marginal ones in particular, can hardly reap any benefit from higher crop production due to unfair price system. At present farmers receive only a fraction of the market price of their produce. On many occasions they cannot even recoup the production costs, which is hurting agricultural productivity badly.

Farmers are engaged in an occupation that feeds the nation. And though the nation is directly dependent on the farmers, all development models and all movements for change pass them by. They are the poorest community of this country and effort to change their lot is few and far between. Against this backdrop, the call for increasing agricultural labour productivity by ensuring fair price is timely. The government has to reach farmers directly to distribute subsidies in the form of cash incentive, seed and fertilizer. Such steps will increase productivity and reduce fraud.

The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the importance of agriculture sector both in terms of avoiding hunger and supporting the macro- and micro-economy. The world was about to lurch toward a famine due to the pandemic, but in Bangladesh we were lucky to have a robust agriculture thanks to which we didn’t face any food shortage during the time of global crisis.

But we can massively increase our agricultural output by overcoming productivity lag, increasing use of farm machineries and introducing smart farming, for which farmers must be trained and made aware of. Besides there are a number of challenges to be dealt with, which includes shrinking arable land, rising natural calamities, shortage of manpower, excessive dependence on groundwater for irrigation and lack of adequate warehouse for preserving perishable items. The government must tackle these challenges under the mega investment plan in agricultural sector under its 8th five-year plan.