Comparing to last year's Boro output of 19.6 million tons, the Ministry of Agriculture has just projected this year's production to be 20.5 million tons
Thanks to expansion of acreage and policy supports, Bangladesh is growing nearly one million tons of additional rice in the current Boro season.
Comparing to last year's Boro output of 19.6 million tons, the Ministry of Agriculture has just projected this year's production to be 20.5 million tons.
The good news comes at a time when flood-induced crop losses in last Aus and Aman forced Bangladesh to import over a million tons of rice in current fiscal up until Tuesday to replenish a dwindling rice stock in public granaries.
According to Food Ministry statistics, the government had only over quarter of a million tons of rice in hand Tuesday, one of the lowest in years.
But with new rice from Boro harvest hitting the market, Agriculture Minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque has expressed hope up trend in rice prices will subside soon.
Briefing the press Tuesday morning on Boro prospect, the agriculture minister said a bumper Boro harvest could be reaped amidst a prolonged pandemic situation and some heat shock-induced crop losses.
He attributed expansion of Boro acreage, replacement of degenerated rice varieties with newer breeds, rolling out of more farm machines and incentives provided to the farmers for rise in Boro output.
Till Tuesday, 100% Boro harvest in seven haor districts have been reaped while nationwide 64% of Boro paddy has already been harvested.
Around same time last year only 33% Boro paddy was harvested.
Applications of higher numbers of combined harvesters, reapers and a favourable weather helped achieve faster harvesting this year.
Besides, the minister said, the government facilitated mobility of some 50,000 farm labourers from other districts to the haor zone for cutting crops.
Expansion in acreage
Boro has been grown in 4.8 million hectares of land across Bangladesh this year, thereby expanding the acreage nearly 3% more than last year's acreage.
Primary estimates of the Agriculture Ministry show per hectare production rose from 3.97 tons (last year) to 4.17 tons this year.
The minister attributed this growth to replacement of degenerated rice varieties like Brri Dhan 28 and 29 with newer high yielding varieties like Brri Dhan 81, 88, 89, and 92 and increased cultivation of hybrid rice during Boro season.
The government distributed hybrid seeds worth Tk73 crore free among rice farmers, he added.
More machines come into play
The government rolled out more farm machines for quicker and efficient harvesting of Boro crop this year.
As many as 789 reapers and 2,620 combined harvesters were employed to harvest Boro, whereas the number of combined harvesters used last year was only 1,240.
Agriculture Minister Razzaque said though the government is providing 50% subsidies (in certain cases up to 70%) to farmers for buying farm machineries, "we need to understand a combined harvester costs Tk30 lakh. That means yet after getting the subsidy a farmer requires to invest Tk15 lakh more, which is a big sum for any farmer in Bangladesh."
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He urged the farm machine companies and banks to come up in farmers' aid so that Bangladesh can accelerate its farm mechanization process.
Heat shock loss
According to official statistics, 96,000 tons of Boro paddy was lost due to a heat shock that swept through mainly six central districts during April 4-11 period thereby, making rice sterile in 21,292 hectares of cropland.
The minister said the government allocated Tk25 crore compensatory cash incentive to over 100,000 farmers, who suffered the heat-induced crop losses.
Fallow land in greater Sylhet
The government is now aiming at bringing up all fallow land under crop cultivation.
The agriculture minister said the greater Sylhet region has lots of fallow lands as many non-resident Sylhetis do not cultivate crops in their lands.
"We have found Moulvibazar district tops in keeping lands fallow and that is why in the Aus season we are providing 1.5 million tons of free seeds among 3,000 farmers so that more areas are brought under rice cultivation," he said.
Bangladesh produces Boro rice worth Tk75,000 crore a year currently, equivalent of 4% of national GDP (gross domestic product).
Boro constitutes 55% of total rice output while Aman (38%) and Aus (7%) are the two other contributing rice seasons.