Civil society members on Wednesday termed the proposed agriculture budget for the fiscal year 2016-17 as inadequate and inefficient.
They also said the budget do not have effective measures that would help the farmers of Bangladesh face the national and global challenges.
The view came at a discussion titled “Budget 2016-17: Allocation for the Agriculture and Future Food Security” held in Dhaka's National Press Club auditorium. It was jointly organised by a group of civil society organisations led by Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL) and Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh (EquityBD).
Md Mujibul Haque Munir of EquityBd said although the money allocated for the Agriculture Ministry grew by about 29% in the proposed 2016-17 budget, the percentage of allocation dropped 0.19% to become just a 4.01% share of the budget. In the last fiscal year, the agriculture budget had a 4.21% share of the entire national budget.
Allocation for the Agriculture Ministry in the Annual Development Plan has also been reduced. It was 2.00% in FY2015-16 and the new budget proposes only 1.7% of the total ADP, he added in his keynote presentation.
Like previous years, Finance Minister AMA Muhith proposed Tk9,000 crore as subsidy for the sector, which was also termed as inadequate by the speakers at the programme.
Regarding this, Dr Jahangir Alam of Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihood (CSRL) said the subsidy must reach the farmers directly and the government purchase centres can be at the village level.
Subal Sarkar of Bangladesh Bhumihin Somity said for the last couple of years the issue of fair price of farmers product has been a huge issue. Rice cultivators are not even getting their production cost, moreover, in the proposed there is no mention of any measure that addresses the problem, he added.
Lawmaker Monoronjon Shil Gopal echoed Subal Sarkar and said the rice collection process from farmers must be reformed.
He said the government should collect rice from farmers instead of paddy. The time of collection should also be revised. Small scale farmers are not getting the benefits of subsidy in agriculture equipment. They should be provided loans with easy interest rates to collect equipments.
Lawmaker Tipu Sultan said Bangladesh is losing 1% of its land every year. Farmers of coastal areas are losing their land due to adverse climate.
“We need strong actions to protect the agricultural lands form commercialisation. By using chemical fertilisers and pesticides to increase our production we are actually killing our future. If we cannot stop excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers we will be in serious threat of food insecurity,” he added.
Another lawmaker Israfil Alam said: “We need modern technologies for agriculture. As many of our farmers do not have the capability to get the technologies, we will have to lend our support towards them in this regard. Our farmers are facing problems due to improper marketing mechanism and that is why we need to reform it. The system should be farmer friendly.”