Analysts offer recipe to boost crop yield
Star Business Report
Bangladesh has boosted its rice production since independence to meet the bulk of its demand for food. But the job of ensuring food for all becomes challenging in the face of ever-growing population and falling farmland, said policymakers and analysts yesterday.
To minimise risks, they suggested curbing the population growth, increasing productivity by introducing modern crops including short-matured and stress tolerant crops and technologies.
They also stressed bringing lands in the south under boro cultivation and continuing subsidy to the farm sector.
These initiatives will help increase crop productivity and reduce the cost of production and thus help keep prices of foods within the tolerable level of 31.5 percent of population who live below poverty line, they said.
“There will be scarcity of land to produce food unless we can keep the population stable,” said Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury at a roundtable at CIRDAP.
The Daily Jugantor and NGO Brac organsied the programme focusing on allocation in the budget for the fiscal 2011-12 for ensuring food security for the ultra poor.
“So the size of the cake should be increased through scientific intervention,” said Matia but added that expecting to bring down population growth rate to zero might help the country attain food security as the government has considered various steps, including bringing farmland in the south under boro rice cultivation.
The shift will also reduce the risk of desertification due to over-mining of underground water for boro cultivation in the north. “It was a wrong focus,” said Matia, referring to the policy of growing boro rice in the north.
The agriculture minister’s remark came as the population growth, by 1.34 percent a year, fuels demand for food in the backdrop of decline in arable land by one percent a year.
She said a curb in population growth rate will also allow a gradual reduction in the level of poverty.
Mahabub Hossain, executive director of Brac, said 18 lakh new mouths are adding to the existing population.
“The only way is to expand the use of modern technology and scientific knowledge to maintain the balance between the two,” said Mahabub, recommending introduction of short-maturing crops which allow more crops to grow on the same land in a year.
He said rise in crop productivity will reduce farmers’ production cost allowing poor people to buy foods at reasonable prices.
“The goal of poverty reduction will be affected unless we can keep prices low,” he said but added that prices should be such that farmers especially marginal and sharecroppers, remain unaffected.
Khondker Ibrahim Khaled, chairman of Bangladesh Krishi Bank, favoured continuation of farm subsidy and increase in farm loan disbursements.
He however said the banking sector suffers from liquidity crisis due to rising government borrowing.
“The trend of agricultural credit flow is not satisfactory in the first two months of the fiscal year,” he said.
Shawkat Momen Shahjahan, chairman of parliamentary standing committee on Ministry of Agriculture, stressed the need for providing incentives to agri-scientists to introduce new technologies for ensuring food security.
The lawmaker also expressed his doubt about the success of ‘One House, One Farm’ progra-mme, saying that it will fail unless changes are brought in implementation policy and programmes.
Former Finance Adviser Mirza Azizul Islam stressed the need for boosting income and purchasing power of poor people alongside taking steps to accelerate crop production.
Citing record food inflation in 10 years, he said: “If the rise in inflation continues, it is bound to put negative effect on poverty situation,”
MM Akash, professor of Department of Economics of University of Dhaka, also favoured continuation of farm subsidy saying that it would help increase crop output and reduce import dependency.