Dhaka, Bangladesh
Farmers,consumers both lose out

Paddy cheap, rice not

Farmers,consumers both lose out

Mechanizing farming, making modern supply chain can help

News Special Harvesting a maund of rice costs the farmers Tk 800 while it fetches them Tk 500-600. They, thus, count a loss of around Tk 300 per 40 kilograms of paddy at the current market rate. A generation gap in agriculture creates this mismatch. Such disclosures came from field-level survey and a flurry of thoughts over the problems facing the agricultural-food sector as well as remedies following a raging row over the paddy-price slump. A token protest by some farmers by burning their paddies and scattering paddy in the capital's streets brought to the fore the matter of what can be dubbed a generation gap in agriculture between here and in advanced parts of the fast-changing world. Even DUCSU VP Nurul Haq Nur led a student protest in Dhaka Wednesday and declared a 'long march' to the countryside if the farmers' woes were not assuaged. Agriculture students also staged civil demonstrations in the capital Thursday, while various modes of protest by political parties' peasant wings continued. It's like the situation in industrial sector where high-rated funds created a wide gap between cost of production and returns from sales of commodities. Consumers have to pay through their nose and even then the borrowing entrepreneurs fall defaulters. Non-performing loan is a malaise stemming from this hiatus among other factors like forged loans and so. This paradox between cost of production and returns on the produce could create a crisis in the farm sector, too, if not addressed through a holistic approach as early as possible. See the predicament of paddy growers from the description given by a former expatriate-turned-farm owner. "Farm labour is so dear that paddy-reapers are unavailable even after paying Tk 600-700 per head plus three meals," said A Rahman of Rajshaihi. The wages come to Tk 800-900 altogether per head a day. Selling price is Tk 500-600 per maund. While the farmers are losing out despite their sweated labour, consumers in urban areas are paying high prices for rice even at high times of harvest. Another educated young farmer of his village in Durgapur upazila, finding it difficult to afford hiring labourer, tried to use harvester, but in vain. Harvester cannot be used if paddy is not planted in the cropland in rows. In the outer world, nowadays, man does little part of farming. Tilling, sowing-planting, weeding, fertilizer use, irrigation and reaping-all are done mechanically. Even milking cows is done with machine precisely. Bangladesh's agriculture, thus, urgently needs bridging this generation gap or be redundant in keeping with the pace every sector is gathering in outer world. Think of driver-less, -self-driven car in this age of AI or artificial intelligence. So, agricultural reform, rapid mechanization, building up modern-day marketing system and setting up agro-processing industries are seen as sine qua non. Both Agriculture Minister Dr A Razzaque, a university agriculture teacher, and Food Minister Sadahan Kumar Majumder say the government mulls over rice export for price support to farmers. Experts, however, say it could be a temporary remedy which may also have side-effects. Oligopoly could jack up rice rates. China, which has worked wonders in mechanization and evolving and using AI, seems coming up in aid to Bangladesh's farming sector. A Chinese company is going to invest US$ 33 million in Bangladesh's agro-processing sector, Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Zhang Zuo said Thursday during a meeting with Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque at the secretariat. Zhang said the Chinese firm will set up three agricultural-processing industries in Bangladesh. Praising Bangladesh for its development in health, education and economic sectors, he said China will import agricultural products from here. Moreover, the Chinese envoy said his country will work with Bangladesh to curb terrorism and militancy. He also said China wants a solution to the current Rohingya crisis. Meanwhile, the agriculture minister said the government is working to turn the country into a developed one by 2041, including modernising agriculture sector to ensure quality food and nutrition for all. Replying to a query, he said, "Farmers are not getting fair prices of their produces. The government is working with utmost importance to ensure fair prices of paddy. We're also thinking about exporting rice." Zheng Tianzhuo, Director of the political section of the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka, and Hu Zhiying, attaché of the political section, were present at the meeting. (Inputs taken from agencies)

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