Sunday, November 1, 2009
The need to increase food output
Bangladesh has compelling reasons to increase its food production on a priority basis. The country produces most of its food requirement and imports meet the limited shortfall. It is a delicate balance which, if it tilts negatively due to weather or other unforeseen factors, as it often did in the past, could force greater imports. In a year of higher staple prices, due to global shortages, the situation can get precarious for Bangladesh.
Obviously, it calls for Bangladesh to go on increasing its food grains output. This year's boro rice production shows that it is very much possible for Bangladesh to increase its food grain production. Bangladesh should, in fact, adopt a long-term plan to attain self-sufficiency in food grains. The faster it is done the better. The aim should be to eventually double the output.
Another imperative for Bangladesh to increase its food output is its growing population.
Every year, the country loses nearly 80 thousand hectares of arable land due to river erosion, building of houses and infrastructure. That is, Bangladesh loses one per cent of arable land each year when the demand for food is rising at a rate of 1.4 per cent due to population growth. The mismatch will only worsen in the years to come, unless vigorous steps are taken right now to gradually increase food grain output.
The strategy should be to grow more food from less land, which is very much possible. According to experts, Bangladesh can immediately produce an additional 30 million tonnes of rice by growing high-yielding varieties on 60 per cent of arable land, up from the existing 20 per cent of the area.
Bangladesh should produce and distribute more high-yielding seeds. Out of the current demand for 300,000 tonnes of rice seeds, Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) supplies 80 per cent and the rest 20 per cent is supplied by the private sector. The BADC and the private sector should increase production of high-yielding seeds for distribution to farmers with a view to increasing the acreage of high-yielding rice.
Besides, cropping as a whole in Bangladesh should be modernised for higher productivity. Farmers, in many areas, do it now on their own. But, the required transformation needs official support to benefit the growers throughout the country. Besides, the government should ensure availability of agricultural inputs in time and in adequate quantities to the farmers at affordable prices.