BBS still lacking this year’s paddy data
Nearly half a year ago, farmers harvested the dry Boro season paddy. Then they took home Aus season paddy in August. And now, they are harvesting rain-based Aman season paddy and preparing to cultivate the next season's Boro paddy.
However, none of the output data is available on the website of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the premier state body for collecting statistics on demographics, the economy, and other facts.
To bring things to perspective, Boro paddy accounts for nearly 55 per cent of Bangladesh's yearly rice production.
With rice being a staple food in Bangladesh, availability of credible crop production data on time is vital for proper and timely planning related to food production and import to ensure stability in the market, according to analysts.
Release of food production figures at the earliest has also become important at this point in time, when prices of grains -- rice and wheat -- remain very high and are expected to rise further.
Alauddin Al Azad, director of the agriculture wing of BBS, said the data of Boro production could not be finalised as the director general (DG) of the BBS is ill.
"The report is almost complete, and we will release the report when the DG of the BBS joins office," he said.
According to officials, the BBS collects and processes crop production data manually, which takes up a lot of time.
The bureaucratic system, which involves approvals from high officials and authorities, also causes delays in the release of the data from the national statistical agency.
The BBS collects information on the production of crops from five farmers of each union. The data of five unions in an upazila is then compiled. In this way, data of every upazila of the country's 64 districts get sent to divisional offices before reaching the head office in Dhaka.
After compilation and finalisation, the BBS presents the crop data to the planning minister for approval, officials said earlier.
In some cases, the data collection process faces disruptions due to natural disasters or a lack cross-checking at the field level, said a BBS official.
Azad said they have been following this practice over the years.
"But, of course, we have a plan to digitalise the process to produce the report fast," he added. However, Azad could not give any idea when this would come about.
While the BBS was taking its time to release the data, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its forecast on Bangladesh's crop production for marketing year 2022-23, which began in May.
Sayema Haque Bidisha, a professor of economics at the University of Dhaka, said delays in the release of key figures such as crop production affects the government's planning as it cannot take time befitting measures to ensure food security for the nation.
This in turn results in the government needing even more time to decide on the import of rice or other products as well as raising chances of incurring high costs in case shipments need to be availed on an emergency basis, she said.
Besides, if information is not available on time, associated research and assessments suffer, said Bidisha, also research director at the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling.
Blaming the use of traditional methods for the delays of the BBS, she recommended that the agency introduce an electronic data transfer system from the field level and adopt apps or software to deliver reports on time.
She said the cost of adopting such software or apps is cheap and effective to get work done swiftly.
Contacted, Planning Minister MA Mannan said he would look into the reasons for delays in the release of the data next week.