From bumps to bumper: Farmers get golden A+

08 June, 2023, 11:15 pm

Last modified: 08 June, 2023, 11:17 pm

Infographic: TBS

Infographic: TBS

Infographic: TBS

When Tarek bin Mahtab of Golai village in Godagari of Rajshahi last spoke to The Business Standard in February, he was expecting a good yield from his Boro paddy and sums of Tk1,100 per maund.

On Thursday, Tarek was all smiles. His move to expand Boro cultivation from seven bighas of land to 10 has paid off.

His yield was 23-24 maunds per bigha, which he was selling at Tk1,280 per maund.

“On this land, paddy is planted twice and mustard once. I haven’t sold all of the paddy yet but I am now preparing to plant Aush paddy. I will also cultivate Aman,” he said.

Tarek’s success wasn’t an exception. Bumper yields of Boro are being seen across the country – the target for 215.337 lakh tonnes set by the government has already been exceeded.

When the economy is under unprecedented stress from almost all fronts, agriculture appears to be the saviour. Farmers have a good Boro harvest this season, which might even surpass the initial forecast.

This will lessen the worries for food at a time when people are hard-pressed by roaring inflation and without electricity for hours every day as fuel shortage keeps many power plants shut.

Farmers made this happen even after hikes in fertiliser, fuel oil and electricity prices –  all adding to the cost of farming. They also endured impacts of low rain and a cyclone. But they at last gave a good return again, as they did during the pandemic years when global food prices surged and supply disrupted.

In April this year, Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque said this year’s Boro paddy production would set a record if there were no natural calamities and the harvest was brought on time.

Thankfully, the worst didn’t come true.

Infographic: TBS

Infographic: TBS

Infographic: TBS

The only weather event – the heat wave – helped Boro harvesting, as they were left dried. Aside from favourable climate conditions, there were also no major incidents of pest attacks.

The total harvest currently stands at 215.337 lakh tonnes from 99.08% of the total 49.999 lakh hectares used for paddy cultivation this year.

Badal Chandra Biswas, director general, Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) told The Business Standard, “Boro’s good yield has put us in a comfortable position. We are now preparing for Aush and Aman. Already five lakh hectares of paddy has been planted out of the 14 lakh hectares target for Aush. Soon we will fix the target of Aman.”

He said, “This time there is a fear of less rain in Aman. However, even if there is a shortage of rain, we will install pumps.”

The current scenario is a far cry from last June, when the dying embers of the pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war and fears of a famine had sent the government scrambling to build up additional food reserves.

Back then, even India, from where Bangladesh bought the bulk of its rice, had banned imports of the staple.  

But this time around, it is the same heroes coming to the rescue – the farmers.

At a time when all other economic indicators are on the downturn, the agricultural side is on a boom.

Worth the work

Godagari, one of the nine upazilas of Rajshahi, has produced 82,813.5 tonnes of Boro rice on 16,560 hectares of land this year.

The average yield was around 5 tonnes.

Mazharul Islam, a farmer of Godagari’s Benipur village, said this year he cultivated Boro paddy on three bighas of land.

His yield was around 25 maunds per bigha, with each maund selling for Tk1,300.

Paddy is 25 maunds per bigha. He got Tk1,300 per maund after selling the paddy from the land.

Apart from Boro, other 28 varieties are selling between Tk1,050-Tk1,100 per maund. Jira Dhan, on the other hand, is fetching Tk1,200 per maund.  

Maryam Ahmed, the Godagari upazila agriculture officer, said bumper paddy was harvested in Godagari this year and farmers were getting good prices.

According to the Directorate of Agricultural Extension, 68,600 hectares of Boro paddy was cultivated in Rajshahi this year.

Already 95% of paddy has been harvested. Production has been 4,75,293 tonnes.

Cultivated land and yield had both increased compared to last time.

District Training Officer of Rajshahi Agriculture Extension, agriculturist Umme Salma said due to the introduction of new varieties and new technologies, alongside the work of farmers, there was good harvest in a shorter period of time. Farmers were also getting good prices.

Elsewhere in Cumilla too, farmers exceeded the Boro season production and cultivation targets. According to sources at the Directorate of Agricultural Extension, Cumilla, in the season of 2022-2023, Boro was cultivated on 1.61 lakh hectares of land up from the target of 1.60lakh hectares. The production target was 6.89 lakh tonnes, which was also exceeded by some 6,000 tonnes.

Omar Farooq, a farmer of Rampur village of Burichong in Comilla, said rice was planted in many areas of Cumilla through rice transplanters, which reduced cost and increased production.

Apart from this, the agriculture office conducted regular supervision at the field level.

Deputy Director of Cumilla’s DAE Dr Mizanur Rahman said new high-yielding varieties of rice have been planted this year.

“We also supply seeds to farmers through field level agriculture officers. We train them in various aspects including rice cultivation and moderate use of chemicals. Farmers are given incentives from the government. All things considered, the yield in Cumilla has exceeded the target.

The same scenario was present in Bogura, which saw its yield increase to eight lakh tonnes. Cultivation increased in Padna too.
Joypurhat, meanwhile, saw less production, registering a decrease by 618 tonnes. Sirajganj saw a rise of Boro production by 103 tonnes.

Bumper Boro harvest was also seen in the northern districts.

Golam Mostafa, a farmer of Bhimpur village in Naogaon Sadar, cultivated seven bigha of land this time and owing to the weather, he got a yield of 30 maunds per bigha compared to last year’s 25.  

The target was also slightly exceeded in Jashore, although some farmers said the heat wave spoiled some of their harvest.

They did overcome

Agriculture department officials said this time the costs of irrigation, fertiliser and threat of drought had put production at risk.
But more land was cultivated than before, resulting in more production.

Dr Jahangir Alam Khan, agro economist and former vice-chancellor of The University of Global Village told TBS, “Fertiliser prices have increased twice, along with seed prices, labour wages, increase in irrigation costs due to pricier electricity and diesel. There was also the threat of drought so this year’s Boro production was at risk. But in the end, despite these fears, there was a good production. There will be no pressure on imports due to good production.

He said farmers got good prices for paddy in the last Aman season which gave them encouragement. Besides, the benefits of mechanisation have been utilised at the harvesting stage.

Easy on the reserves

Almost all fronts of the economy are in stress from adversities induced by the Russia-Ukraine war, with the dollar crisis persisting, foreign reserves depleting badly disrupting international transactions, revenue falling and exports and remittance under cloud of global slowdown fears.

A finance ministry document reveals how the weakening taka could inflate the government’s bills for debt repayment, project work and subsidies.

The bumper Boro harvest comes as a relief when the future of food is under the shadow of the war, which may disrupt global supplies of grain and farm inputs, and make food costlier again in the global market. Extreme weather also remains a concern in many food-growing countries.

From more than a half of the economy, the share of agriculture has come down to a little more than a fifth. But this sector proves its worth during crisis – earlier during pandemic and now in war.

The bumper harvest also means there will be no additional toll on the stretched reserves.

Md Ismiel Hossain, secretary, Ministry of Food, told TBS, ” The Boro production has been very good and our procurement is also going strong. At this moment we do not feel any pressure or need to import.”

He said since wheat is less for us, a plan will be made for how much to bring in the next financial year.

Eyes turn towards Aush

With the Boro challenge met, farmers are now preparing land for the Aush paddy.

The target of Aush in Bogura this time is 19,560 hectares. Last year, it was 16,350.

The target in Pabna is 28,200 hectares and for Sirajganj it is 7,070.

Rezaul Islam, a farmer of Jalshuka village in Shajahanpur, said earlier Aush paddy could be cultivated only in rain water. But due to the decrease in rainfall over the last few years, the land has to be irrigated by machines.

He hopes the weather will be favourable.

Manjurul Haque, deputy director of Jashore regional agriculture office, also expressed hope that the Aush paddy will be planted on more land.

The on-the-ground reality is a bit different in Lakshmipur. The cultivation of the crop is also not visible.

In Cumilla, 50% of the land in the district is being used to cultivate Aush. The variety will also be planted on 52,630 hectares of land in Rajshahi.

Aush paddy planting has also begun in Jashore, where the target has been set at 17 lakh hectares.

Meanwhile, an incentive of Tk33.20 crore will be given to increase the cultivation and production of Aman this year.

In Sylhet, the target has been set at 2.23 lakh hectares and the production target is 5.88 lakh tonnes.

Our correspondents Md Habibur Rahman (Rajshahi), Monowar Ahmed (Jashore), Md Tayubur Rahman (Cumilla), Md Khorshed Alam (Bogura) and Sana Ullah Sanu (Lakshmipur) contributed to this report.

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