Bangladesh experiences significant labor shortages around agricultural peak planting and harvesting times
What was true a few decades ago when most farmers still used ancient cultivation methods, engaging cattle for farming, has changed due to revolutionary mechanization in the sector, along with many technological developments throughout agricultural methods in the country.
Despite repeated natural calamities across the country and adverse impact of climate change including salinity intrusion, Bangladesh has produced 388.15 lakh metric tons of grain cereal (rice, wheat and maize) during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, according to the last year’s annual report of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Of them the amount of rice produced is 338.13 lakh metric tons, wheat 14.23 lakh metric tons and maize 35.78 lakh metric tons.
Meanwhile 160.42 lakh metric tons of vegetable have been produced along with 113.32 lakh metric tons of potato, 10.26 lakh metric tons of pulse crops, 10.58 lakh metric tons of oil bearing crops and 25.60 lakh metric tons of spice crops in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
“It’s true that we’ve become self-sufficient in producing food because of the mechanisation and technology. Our farmers are getting the most out of small lands. The farm extension went from horizontal to vertical. The key problem that we’re facing is that the pace of climate change is way faster than the new technologies being introduced onto the fields,” Shykh Seraj, a renowned media and agricultural development activist said.
“To me, technology means agricultural inputs and mechanisation, with which farmers will benefit from farming to get the best profits. And, if it can go along with the climate and weather, then we may call it a success,” he said.
A study published on October 2016 titled, ‘Scaling up of Agricultural Machinery in Bangladesh Review of Successful Scaling of Agricultural Technologies’ said there were a number of characteristics of the Bangladesh context that facilitated scaling up of the machinery services.
The United States supported study found:
-Bangladesh experiences significant labor shortages around agricultural peak planting and harvesting times
-The majority of potential users raises multiple crops and has access to irrigation. They diversify their risk across seasons and crops while limiting the risk of relying solely on rain-fed agriculture.
-Most farmers have a commercial orientation and generate a cash surplus. They can feed their families based on the summer rainy season rice production, so crops from other seasons are de facto cash crops and provide cash income.
-Bangladesh has a large installed base of power tillers and local service providers. Farmers have pre-existing experience with mechanization and buying machinery services, and new agricultural innovations can build on the existing services.
-Bangladesh has a viable, growing, and relatively dynamic private agricultural machinery sector with a fairly extensive distribution system in place.
-A dense network of micro-finance institutions already exists, and some already have experience with lending for agricultural machinery.
-There is no public or parastatal entity that produces and sells machinery at below-market prices.
In 2017, the government had raised the subsidy to cultivators for purchasing farm machineries from 30 percent to 50 percent, with a view to expanding mechanized seeding, transplanting and harvesting such that farmers can produce more food cost effectively.
The government has also increased the subsidy ratio to 70 percent for buying certain types of farm machineries by the haor and southern coastal regions farmers.
The Department of Agricultural Extension’s (DAE) Sheikh Md Nazimuddin, the project director of the enhancement of crop production through farm mechanization project phase II said: “In terms of modernization of whole agricultural sector, Bangladesh has already made significant progress. The machineries are mainly used by the farmers in three different phases— in preparing land, irrigation and thrashing the crops.”