If farmers with empty pockets miss the next cropping season, the country’s food sufficiency may be endangered
If the pandemic-hit farmers are not provided with cash support immediately, they may miss the next cropping season as they have already lost the capital, says a Brac research.
This could drag the country down to a food shortage, according to the research findings published on Thursday at a virtual programme.
According to the research, the coronavirus-led shutdown collapsed the market management network, putting agriculture, fisheries and meat producers in an estimated loss of Tk56,536 crore.
Researchers interviewed 1,581 farmers across the country and covered the impact of the virus in the last two months – from the end of March to mid-May.
Some 88 percent farmers said they faced problems with their produce during the shutdown and incurred losses in the volatile market.
The research found 66 percent farmers had to sell their produce at a throwaway price, while 52 percent suffered from marketing failures and 28 percent crop growers did not find sufficient workers to hire.
Demand for essential commodities rose to 300 percent in March which later fell significantly in May, the research found. However, prices of agri produce at the root-level dropped below the production cost against the excessive demand.
Though the government announced a Tk5,000 crore stimulus for the farmers and a Tk14,000 crore package for the entire agriculture sector, 95 percent farmers who were interviewed said they did not receive any assistance.
Former vice-chancellor of the Bangladesh Agricultural University Dr MA Sattar suggested forming a guideline detailing how the farmers can receive the cash immediately.
"Farmers go through several problems to get a bank loan. The Department of Agricultural Extension, Department of Livestock Services and Department of Fisheries must step in so that a farmer, even without any security, can avail loans when he needs it urgently," he said.
He recommended for specific plans in the upcoming national budget. Dr Sattar also prescribed cultivation of cooking essentials, including onion and garlic, on abandoned lands in the char areas.
At the virtual publication programme, ACI Agribusiness Executive Director Dr FH Ansari said the country has already grown the foods it will need in the next three months.
"But concern grows over food security in the next six months if the farmers continue to remain in trouble. They lost their capital last season in the volatile market," he said.
"If they are not provided with cash immediately, food security will be endangered in the long run," he feared.
Director of Brac Dairy and Food Enterprise Mohammad Anisur Rahman said long-term effects in the agriculture sector may be higher than the current short-term issues.
"Because farmers go for next cropping after selling the produce of the current season. We might end up in food shortage if we do not take immediate measures," he noted cautiously.