Farmers left in the dark | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 10, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 10, 2011

Budget 2011-12 Special

Farmers left in the dark


Hours before Finance Minister AMA Muhith unveiled the budget for fiscal 2011-12 yesterday, Refayet Ullah, a farmer from Pirgachha in the northern district of Rangpur, wished the government would provide farm inputs at low prices.
His expectation may remain unfulfilled in the upcoming fiscal year.
The minister proposed a 21 percent cut in subsidies on farm inputs to Tk 4,500 crore from a revised allocation of Tk 5,700 crore in the outgoing fiscal budget.
With this, the agriculture ministry has a total allocation of Tk 7,406 crore in the proposed budget, down 12 percent from the revised allocation of Tk 8,435 crore in the outgoing fiscal year. This move may look like a lack of prioritisation in terms of allocation, even though Muhith said the economy is dependent on agriculture and the farmers.
In his budget speech, the minister talked about the steps taken to boost farm output through increased distribution of quality seeds by Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) and expansion of surface water irrigation facilities.
Other points include the target to increase farming of salinity resistant rice in the south and formation of farmers' marketing groups and farmers' club, to help them get fair prices for their produce.
Greater use of guti (granular) urea and leaf colour chart to cut indiscriminate use of urea for arresting degradation of soil fertility, and dredging of rivers, excavation and re-excavation of canals as well as building of dams are also expected to help boost farm productivity in future.
But a major part of this year's proposal is a continuation of last year's promises and the ongoing programmes -- what economist Mahabub Hossain referred to as 'dodging' in terms of allocation.
“The government speaks of safeguarding farmers' interests. But it has not been reflected in the budget. The cut in subsidy will hurt the farmers,” he said, coming down on the drastic cut in allocation for agriculture.
He said the reduction in subsidy for agri-input may also reduce the government's purchasing capacity to buy the required amount of fertiliser from the international market, which records a rise in prices.
However, the fisheries and livestock ministry has received a spike in allocation to Tk 977 crore from the revised Tk 794 crore in the outgoing fiscal year.
Looking back at last year's pledge, agriculture insurance is yet to be introduced but Muhith said Sadharan Bima Corporation has drawn up a pilot project to introduce 'Crop Insurance' in one upazila.
“The crop insurance scheme is expected to be introduced on a pilot basis in the next fiscal year,” said Muhith.
He said research programmes have already begun with the profit generated from the agricultural research fund, which was created with an allocation of Tk 350 crore earlier.
He said all kinds of agricultural research programmes on jute, tea and others crops will be brought under this fund. Other than this, there has been no additional outlay for agri-research to speed up research on the introduction of seeds capable of facing various negative consequences of climate change.
The issue of ensuring fair prices for the farmers by modernising the department of agriculture marketing also did not get priority. Muhith said 15 wholesale market infrastructure and 60 growers' markets have been built in the outgoing fiscal.
''We want the government to ensure fair prices of our produce,'' said farmer Refayet Ullah, citing the government's decision to buy rice from millers instead of buying paddy from growers.

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