Muhith says the country has achieved self-sufficiency in food due to the agriculture-friendly policies of the current government
The agriculture sector has been allocated a lower percentage in the proposed budget for 2018-19 fiscal year than that in the current fiscal year, though the total amount has increased slightly.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday proposed Tk13,910 crore for the Ministry of Agriculture, which is 2.99% of the total proposed budget. In the current fiscal year, the sector's revised budget is Tk10,315 crore; the proposed budget was Tk13,600 crore.
Expressing his confidence in the sector’s progress, the finance minister also said in his budget speech that the country has achieved self-sufficiency in food due to the agriculture-friendly policies of the current government.
He mentioned that the crop yield per hectare increased from 3,761kg to 4,629kg over the last nine years. Food grain production increased from 34,710,000 tons in FY2008-09 to 38,634,000 tons in FY2016-17, barring temporary setbacks arising from natural calamities.
The finance minister also proposed to allocate Tk9,000 crore for subsidies to facilitate fertilizer supply and irrigation in FY2018-19 – the same as the ongoing fiscal year.
In his budget speech, the veteran minister also said the effectiveness of the government's ongoing strategy in the agriculture sector was being tested, as arable land around the country is decreasing because of high population density, expansion of economic activities and increased demand for improved standards of living.
In spite of these challenges, the average growth of the agriculture sector over the last 10 years stands at 3.8%. It will be possible to sustain the growth of agriculture sector by continuing the on-going activities and expanding the scope of research for innovation of different disaster-tolerant varieties of rice and other crops, he added.
Bangladesh is still an agro-based economy where real economic development depends on the improvement of this sector, which is why the government always prioritizes this sector.
The finance minister also proposed to reimpose import duty on rice to benefit the local farmers as well as boost local production.
“This year, we have a bumper production in rice. Thus to protect local farmers, 25% customs duty and 3% regulatory duty have been reimposed on rice import,” the minister said in his budget speech.
In this regard, Dr Quazi Shahabuddin, former director general of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, said: “Imposing import duty on rice is an effective instrument to check the rice prices in the local market. At the same time, it ensures fair prices to the growers. Usually the government withdraws import duty on rice when there is a shortage. When there is a surplus of supply, the duty is imposed.”
He welcomed the decision of reimposing the 28% import duty in the proposed budget, because it will ensure fair prices of the newly harvested Boro rice.