Agriculture should graduate to a higher level

There are very compelling reasons  to explain why much increasing the production of food grains ought to be a very high priority for Bangladesh. The country is able to maintain a balance of sorts between its basic food supply requirement and present population with some dependency on imported food grains. But this balance could strain severely even in the near future increasing the import dependency when worldwide food shortages and higher prices of staple foods are noted.
Thus, it is high time for Bangladesh to devise and implement programmes to go on substantially increasing the production of food grains. This year’s near attainment of the target of boro rice production which was set at a higher level, shows that planned increases of food grain production are possible. This should now lead to planning for the long term to attain complete self-sufficiency  in food grains at the fastest. The aim of such long term planning is to go on gradually increasing food grain production to ultimately double output.
Every year, the country is seen losing nearly 80 thousand hectares of arable lands due to river erosion, building of houses and infrastructures. Thus, one per cent of arable lands is getting lost annually when the demand for food is rising at a rate of 1.4 per cent annually from population growth and other factors. There is a mismatch already and this will only worsen in the years to come if vigorous steps are not taken from now to go on increasing food grain production.
The strategy for Bangladesh to that end will have to be one of increasing production from limited or shrinking areas of cultivable lands. But this should not be considered as a serious negative factor because all the possibilities are there for higher productivity from the limited lands. According to experts, Bangladesh can attain a major increase  in its food grain production immediately by only expanding the use of the higher yielding varieties of seeds. Only 20 per cent of the farmlands are now covered by high yielding seeds.   If the rate of use of such seeds can be extended by 60 per cent from the present rate, then it would be possible to produce an additional 30 million tons of rice.
The challenge would be producing the increased quantities of the higher yielding seeds and distributing these efficiently to the farmers. The total demand for paddy seeds is 0.3 million metric tons. But the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC)  supplies 80 thousand metric tons and the rest of the 20 per cent of such seeds now used, are supplied by the private sector. Thus, both the BADC  and the private sector will have to engage in time-bound hard activities to increase production of higher yielding  seeds and to ensure their efficient distribution to farmers. BADC  is expected to take the lead role in this area.
Apart from greater use of high yielding seeds, agriculture as a whole in Bangladesh should be modernized to a higher degree for higher productivity. Farmers in many areas are helping such a transformation on their own. Power tillers are replacing the traditional bullock and machines are being used for threshing in place of the manually operated systems. But this transformation needs to be much extended throughout the country through helpful official policies and supports. Besides, the governmental agencies must ensure timely availability of the various agricultural inputs  in adequate quantities to the doorsteps of  farmers at affordable prices.


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