Farmers supply two-thirds of their crops to markets
Farmers in Bangladesh sell most of their crops to meet their financial needs after keeping a small portion for the consumption of their families, according to a new survey of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
On average, growers supply about 65 per cent of paddy, 70 per cent of vegetables, and 81 per cent of pulses to markets after harvesting.
The findings of the BBS survey will help facilitate market monitoring and allow authorities to frame policies and take necessary steps.
The findings of the survey, the first of its kind in the country, gave the idea about the supply scenario, which may go on to help the government devise steps to keep the market stable and plans local procurement and imports.
The state-run agency conducted the survey on the gross marketed surplus of 145 agriculture products, including paddy, pulses, oilseed, vegetables, fibre, spices and fruits.
The survey, whose results were released recently, was carried out taking into consideration of the farm production of the 2017-18 fiscal year as the base year.
It showed farmers sold the highest 67.88 per cent of high-yielding Boro paddy, followed by 66.78 per cent of high-yielding Aus, and 59.8 per cent of high-yielding Aman.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Prof Shamsul Alam, state minister for planning, said: "Farmers usually sell Boro paddy most as it is one of the cash crops. They usually meet their financial needs by selling Boro."
Cash crops are planted for the purpose of selling on the market or for exports to make a profit, as distinguished from subsistence crops grown as livestock feeding or food for families.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said the findings would help facilitate market monitoring and allow the authorities to frame policies and take necessary steps.
The findings will be useful in knowing a crop's production and how much it goes to the market. "It will allow us to learn about the products that should be imported or exported to stabilise the market," said Prof Alam.
The survey showed production of 11 types of cereals, including paddy and wheat, totalled 5.81 crore tonnes. Of the produce, farmers kept 2.05 crore tonnes, or 35.42 per cent, for their families and sold 3.75 crore tonnes.
The survey was also conducted on 24 varieties of vegetables, including potato, brinjal, pumpkin, cucumber, cabbage, carrot, tomato, and bean.
A total of 1.28 crore tonnes of vegetables were grown in 2017-18. Farmers retained about 38 lakh tonnes, or 30 per cent, and sold about 90 lakh tonnes, or 70 per cent of the total production.
Prof Alam said: "There are enough vegetables. So, the prices of vegetables remain stable, except for the price fluctuations seen during the lean period," he said, adding that vegetables also saw price fluctuation owing to storms or floods.
In Bangladesh, 3.8 lakh tonnes of pulses, including lentil, pea, chickpea and Khesari, were produced in FY18. Growers sold 3.09 lakh tonnes of the produce in the market, which represented 81 per cent of the total crop.
A maximum of 87.02 per cent of pea was sold, followed by chickpea 86.23 per cent and Khesari 85.69 per cent.
"This does not mean that we have no shortage of pulses. There are enough deficits. Most of it is sold because it is a cash crop," said Prof Alam.
M Asaduzzaman, a former research director of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, said the findings showed that farmers were market-oriented.
"The point is whether farmers get the fair prices or not."
Small growers are likely to sell the crop for cash after just harvesting. But they could have clocked higher returns if they could hold their produce for a longer period.
So, the economist called for support from the government to allow growers to retain their crop for an extended period.
Asaduzzaman thinks the figures of marketed surplus would be helpful in preparing overall food planning.
"But food-related planning could be done properly if we know the ratio of net marketed surplus. The net marketed surplus will be lower than the gross marketed surplus."
Gross marketed surplus indicates that a section of farmers buys back from the market.
Asaduzzaman says as farmers are selling mainly high-yielding and hybrid rice and retaining local varieties, knowing the nutritional value of the former will be vital.
"This will give a picture about the amount of nutrition consumers get by eating them."
AMM Shawkat Ali, a former food adviser to the caretaker government, says a higher marketed surplus is good for both farmers and consumers as prices will be stable.
The ratio of marketed surplus for vegetables is likely to be higher as growers don't have the capacity to hold the perishable for long.
"But why are prices of vegetables are rising?" Ali questioned.
High cost of labour stemming from the lower use of the mechanised system, extortion during transport of the produce to cities, and the presence of a number of intermediaries are among the factors responsible for higher vegetable prices.
"At the end of the day, consumers are forced to pay the higher prices," said the former adviser.