A decline in the share of agriculture in the proposed budget would have an adverse impact on small and marginal farmers, agriculture activists said yesterday.
The budget for fiscal 2014-15 proposed Tk 12,390 crore for agriculture. Though the amount is a Tk 111 crore hike from the outgoing fiscal year's allocation, the sector's share in the total budget has declined 0.73 percent.
Agriculture subsidy has been proposed at Tk 9,000 crore, which is the same as in the current fiscal year. However, the economy has witnessed inflation of more than 7 percent, which means subsidy has actually declined by 7 percent, the activists said.
The reduction in the agricultural allocation means production cost will rise further, which would push small farmers into poverty, they said.
“Our farmers will gradually lose their livelihood and become landless farm workers if the trend continues,” said Barkat Ullah Maruf, coordinator of policy research and campaign at Equity-BD, an NGO, at a press conference at the National Press Club in Dhaka.
A lack of emphasis on agriculture where 49 percent of the country's population is employed is not a good sign, said Maruf, adding that the government had set a target in 2009 to achieve food autarky by 2013, which has not yet been achieved.
The government imported the lowest amount of food grains (18.66 lakh tonnes) in fiscal 2011-12 and the highest amount (51.5 lakh tonnes) in fiscal 2010-11.
The government imported 23.44 lakh tonnes this fiscal year, claiming that it has achieved food sufficiency, he said.
When arable land is declining by 1 percent a year and food demand is rising, providing inadequate subsidy is not a wise decision, especially when production costs are rising and farmers are not getting fair prices, Maruf said.
Zayed Iqbal, a coordinator at Bangladesh Farmers' Federation, said agriculture produce is the foundation of industrialisation, and if farmers are not taken care of, industrialisation cannot continue.
He demanded the government establish a price commission that will work to ensure fair prices of agricultural produce.
“In our country, farmers are seen dumping their produce. We have seen farmers discard milk for not getting fair prices,” Iqbal said.
On the other hand, Bangladesh imports powder milk that serves the interests of multinational companies, he added.
Golam Sarwar, president of Bangladesh Farm Workers Federation, Aminul Haque, secretariat coordinator of Equity-Bd, and Aminur Rasul Babul, chief executive of Unnayan Dhara Trust, also spoke.