Higher quality seeds to increase production
Bangladesh in 2007 found out the hard way why the local capacities for food production must be retained, always, on the high side. In that year, local crops failed on a large scale when import prices of foodgrains shot up and food grains became scarce in the international markets. If nothing else, the lessons of 2007 must not be ever missed by the policy planners. It is high time for Bangladeshto develop short, medium and long term plans and to implement them in time for its sustainable and comprehensive food security.
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 now between its basic food production and the needs of its present population. But this balance could strain severely even in the near future creating or increasing import dependency again.
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 attainment of the target of boro rice production which was set at a higher level and achieved, shows that planned increases of food grain production are possible. This should now lead to planning for the long term to attain complete and sustainable self-sufficiency in food grains production over the long haul matching with population rise or growing consumption. 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 probably a slight mismatch in the demand and supply of food grains already. 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 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.
It is also important to gradually increase capacities for storing food grains. As it is such storing capacities needs to expand fast to keep pace with greater production of food grains. A great deal of foods grains available in the post harvest periods cannot be warehoused now simply due to inadequate warehousing facilities.