Disruption in distribution of fertiliser and diesel because of the ongoing political turmoil have raised fears that the harvest of Boro paddy, slated for April-May next year, may get seriously hampered.
With Boro accounting for nearly 60% of the country’s aggregate demand for rice, economists said there were chances that food security might come under threat if the political turmoil got stretched.
A senior official of the agriculture ministry said the government might not admit that Boro production might be hampered.
But farmers have said this (December) was the time of the year and the harvest cycle when they apply fertiliser to the immature paddy to accelerate growth and production.
According to the industries ministry, the current government stock of urea fertiliser stands at 120,000 tonnes; but the demand for urea in December is 256,000 tonnes.
There are allegations that sellers are hoarding fertiliser amid the political violence, thus giving rise to the “unnatural” supply shortage. Some are reportedly selling urea fertiliser at Tk10-Tk15 above usual price.
The government generally procures the fertiliser from dealers and stores. Then when time comes, the fertiliser is distributed among the farmers.
But since the government has been finding it difficult to ensure smooth transportation of fertiliser around the country, some farmers are having to buy the fertiliser directly from the dealers at higher prices.
While talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Kamrul Ashraf Khan, president of Bangladesh Fertiliser Association, claimed that the situation had not been in their control because of the prolonged blockade. He also snubbed out the allegations that the dealers had been trying to sell fertiliser at higher prices.
Ashraf also said the supply of diesel – used for fuelling irrigation machines – has also been badly hampered as the transportation system in the country had collapsed because of the prolonged blockade.
He said the 16 southern districts, who mainly contribute to the production of the country’s main crop, have been the worst sufferers due to the supply shortage of diesel and also fertiliser.
Over the last couple of weeks, Boro growers in a number of districts demonstrated in front of their respective deputy commissioners’ offices demanding fertiliser and diesel.
Khondaker Golam Moazzem, additional research director of Centre for Policy Dialoge, told the Dhaka Tribune that the targeted Boro production might not be reached if the government failed to ensure smooth supply of fertiliser.
He added that it all depended on how the government handled the political turmoil to keep up the transportation of fertiliser.
Moazzem also said harvest of Aman – the other major crop of the country – had been quite good a few months ago because the government had managed to keep the supply chain up and running amid the political turmoil.
According to the CPD director, shortage of diesel would not hurt Boro production if the government could ensure electricity supply because irrigation pumps could be run by electricity as well.
However, hoping that the political turmoil would not hurt Boro production, Agriculture Secretary Dr SM Nazmul Islam said the current position of government’s urea fertiliser stock was good – both in Dhaka and at the regional levels.
“700,000 to 800,000 tonnes of urea fertiliser is currently kept stored at the warehouse of Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation,” the secretary claimed.
He also said although there had been some stray incidents where fertiliser-laden trucks had been torched by pickets, in most cases, mobile courts and police had managed to keep the roads clear.
The last harvest brought around 18.77 million tonnes of boro rice between May and June; up from 18.75 million tonnes in the previous season, according to a provisional estimate of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.