USDA predicts that rice production in Bangladesh will exceed 3.6 crore tonnes in the current fiscal year
Suruj Ali, a farmer from Sutiakhali in Mymensingh, grows paddy on 30 kathas of land every season.
Though he had a loss of Tk14,000 last season, he said the yield is good this Boro season. However, he is worried about getting a fair price for his produce.
"Even if there is a loss every season, I keep cultivating paddy. Agriculture is my livelihood," he said.
Many farmers state this and continue to grow crops even if such problems are not solved. Consequently, Bangladesh is going to be the third-top rice producer in the world.
Rice production is continuously increasing in Bangladesh. In a recent report on the latest global agricultural production, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicted that Bangladesh will be the third-largest rice producer in the world.
The prediction from USDA says that rice production in Bangladesh will exceed 3.6 crore tonnes in the current fiscal year. China is in first position while India is in second.
However, the reality is that even though Bangladesh is the third-top rice producing country in the world, the farmers are unhappy.
Experts are of the view that in order to maintain the growth rate of rice production in the country, focus should be on protecting soil health, modernising agriculture as well as managing the internal market.
A fair price for the farmer's labour must be ensured.
Relevant authorities have stressed the importance of coordinating among every department of this sector – including the research and extension department.
Dr Mohammad Saidur Rahman, professor of Agricultural Economics at Bangladesh Agricultural University said that the farmers were performing their duties.
"They are not reluctant to cultivate the rice. The government is also working to assist the farmers and providing annual subsidies. Now discipline between the farmers and farming is needed," he said.
He said that arrangements should be made so that farmers do not feel uncertain about the price of their produce.
"The government is purchasing paddy directly from the farmers at a fair price. However, it should be kept in mind that a large part of the farmers are being deprived of the right price for various reasons including the manipulation of middlemen," said the professor of Agricultural Economics.
So, we have to check the market management. Otherwise, despite the production rise, those who are working behind it will incur losses, he added.
He suggested that as the production is increasing, it is necessary to maintain internal market management to ensure a fair price for produce. He also stressed that a field for regular rice exports should be created.
"This will increase the price of the crop and it requires planning," he added.
Kamala Ranjan Das, additional secretary of Research Division, Ministry of Agriculture, said, "Farmers produce crops, and if they cannot survive, there will be no success in the agricultural sector."
"Their economic development will not happen unless proper marketing of the produced grains is ensured," he added.
"We are trying to overcome all the limitations that we have," he said.
"Initiatives are underway to commercialise surplus rice by keeping stocks following our need. We can export quality rice with adequate stocks for the country," said the additional secretary.
Citing that export was a matter of policy decision, Kamala Ranjan Das said, "We have good quality grains."
Earlier this year, Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chairman of the UAE Investment Authority, expressed his desire to import rice from Bangladesh to the government.
The government received a positive response about the quality of rice sent as a gift to Abu Dhabi in the current month, he added.
Researchers, meanwhile, say production is on the rise. To continue this trend, we need to focus on protecting soil health and modernising agriculture, they added.
Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA) Director General Mirza Mofazzal Islam told The Business Standard that farmers are still little aware about how to maintain soil health.
"We are doing research on how to increase production while maintaining soil fertility," he said.
He said that every step of cultivation, from the application of fertiliser, should be done to protect the health of the soil.
"Agriculture has to be modernised. So, we are arranging training for the farmers," added the BINA official.
Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture Mohammad Nasiruzzaman said that the country is witnessing an increasing amount of population and decreasing amount of cultivable land.
"Even then, our production is increasing. The government is providing incentives, and subsidising about Tk9,000 crore a year in this sector. The price of balanced fertiliser is being reduced, while farmers are receiving newer varieties," he said.
The farmers used to get a new paddy variety within 10 - 12 years. However, now it takes only three-four years, added the secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.
"The cultivation process of all these varieties is regularly monitored. The government is working hard at every step from research to expansion. Thus, production is increasing," said Mohammad Nasiruzzaman.
He also stressed the importance of mechanisation.
"During mechanisation, we saw that the land was cultivated in pieces. If this land cannot be brought under unified cultivation, mechanisation will not be possible," he continued.
"To do this, we are moving towards synchronised agriculture where it is possible to cultivate at least 60 acres of land together. Machines will be used to sow seeds and harvest [the paddy]," he added.
"The annual surplus of rice is 20 lakh tonnes on average. We can export it if we want. However, the announcement of exports may have an adverse effect on the domestic market. So we are prioritising internal market management first," Nasiruzzaman said.
More than 55 percent of the country's rice production is from Boro paddy. The remaining is from Aush and Aman paddies.
According to the Agriculture Directorate, Bangladesh needs 3.51 crore lakh tonnes of rice annually.