The World Anti Tobacco Day is observed in here are important crops-such as cotton and rubber-the cultivation of which can substantially reduce import dependence for Bangladesh. Experiments established that cotton of the finest quality can be produced in Bangladesh. The soil of this country is well suited for high grade cotton cultivation.
The country’s main export commodity at present is ready-made garments (RMG). But value-addition in the RMG sector at present is only about 30 to 35 per cent. But the same can climb to 70 per cent or above, fairly soon, if only cotton in increased quantities is locally produced to be used for making yarn and fabric.
In that case, retained foreign exchange earnings from the RMG sector will also rise substantially. Extension of rubber cultivation to the same end is also possible.
Similarly, stepped up production of oilseeds and spices can lead to a substantial saving of foreign currency by much reducing the import needs of these commodities. The cumulative effect of the wider and successful production of these non foodgrain crops will translate into vital balance of payments support for the country by reducing imports and increasing export values.
Furthermore, production of these within the country will also aid crucially in their price stabilsation when the higher import costs of these are tormenting the consumers .
Understandably, the demand of the country’s huge population for basic food creates the compulsion for using lands very extensively for food grain production. But this problem can be circumvented considerably by going for higher yields of food grains from limited lands to set free considerable lands for the cultivation of non food grain and new crops.
This strategy might ensure continued high production of food grains while also freeing up farmlands for planting the non foodgrain crops.
One study has found that improved or high yielding seeds for food grains are being sowed in only 20 per cent of the cultivated areas. If only the rate of application of improved or higher yielding seeds can be increased to 50 or 60 per cent, then production of food grains can more than double.
In that case, more than self sufficiency in food grains production can be achieved that would also create conditions for using a sizeable part of the farm lands for producing non food grain crops.
It might also be assessed whether expanding acreage under non food grain crops and achieving import substitution means a greater saving of resources even if import of food grains increase somewhat as more lands are devoted to the non food grain crops.
It is very likely that even increasing food imports to some extent to release lands for the cultivation of non food grain crops might effect a greater saving of resources at some stage than the present scenario of near self reliance in food grains but growing import dependence of other agricultural products.
Then, there are other products to be derived from lands which have much prospects namely baby corn, gherkin, cut flowers, orchids and condiments. All of these and more can be grown in the country especially with an eye for export. Thus, these soil derived commodities can open up a rich new field of export.
However, to successfully diversify into these areas of production, it will be necessary to build capacities at all levels in respect of technology, standardisation, infrastructural and institutional facilities right from the start of production stages to export.
Government declared diversification of agriculture and export of new agriculture oriented products as its thrust policy some years ago. Venture capital and other forms of patronisation to this end were also declared. But evidences of vigorous implementation of the policy or its notable bearing of fruit, is not visible.
If the policy has been lacking, then it needs serious investigations why it is not creating the desired impact. After such an assessment and identification of the bottlenecks, it can be recast with emphasis amended or increased in different areas, as required, and also increases in support activities accordingly.
Diversification of agriculture in support of the above objectives is a pressing need indeed for the national economy.