Saturday, 2 July, 2022

Worsening agricultural labour crisis

Worsening agricultural labour crisis

The country’s agricultural sector may be flourishing, but at the same time it is also facing a dire threat – acute labour deficit during the peak period of rice harvesting. According to a news report, during this current Boro harvesting period, farmers have to spend as much as 1200 taka a day, plus three meals, to hire a labourer. Harvesting of an acre of land requires 4-5 labourers. Farmers fear that they might not be able to recoup the cultivation cost by selling their produce as per the existing price of paddy.

Due to this problem, as the report said, some are not harvesting their crops, while in many areas of the country farmers have reduced the cultivation of rice and switched to other crops that are profitable. This is an alarming situation for sustaining self-sufficiency in rice production. Labour crisis may aggravate further in future as more and more farm labourers are switching over to other occupations for getting higher wages as well as escaping seasonal unemployment in the agricultural sector.

Apparently, there is no alternative to mechanization of agriculture and farming process. The government has been giving price incentives to farmers in buying selected farm machineries for several years. As a result, the use of light farm machineries like tractors and power tillers have increased, but there is also a need for increasing the use of heavier machineries like combine harvesters. These machineries are used very widely around the world for rice and wheat harvesting as they can save time by 70-80%, labour by 75% and crop-loss by 3%.

However, the prices of combine harvesters are so high that even after getting price incentive it is difficult for farmers to afford it. In some areas farmers are teaming up to jointly procure the machinery which is a good sign. Besides, if bank loans are made readily available and importers sell the machinery at instalment, agricultural mechanisation will become popular in the coming years, which will not only increase productivity but also help the country cope with labour deficiency.