Farmers are expected to bag a higher amount of boro paddy this harvesting season thanks to favourable weather and low pest infestation, a development that may offer some breathing room to the nation now reeling under coronavirus-induced uncertainty.
The yield of the biggest crop is likely to edge up 0.51 per cent year-on-year to 1.95 crore tonnes in the current harvesting season, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a report on Bangladesh released on Monday.
"Farmers, although concerned about a labour shortage during harvest, believe this year's crop has benefitted from favourable weather and no major pest or disease infestations," it said.
The prediction comes as farmers in the northeast and northwest regions, two major boro producing zones in the country, are harvesting the paddy, which accounts for more than half of the total annual rice production.
The report cited government initiatives to support farmers during the pandemic and said labour, transportation, storage and processing costs are expected to rise as a result of COVID-19.
The agency forecasted that overall rice production might increase 1.4 per cent to 3.63 crore tonnes on the assumption of normal weather conditions and higher yield in the May-April period of 2020-21 from 3.58 crore tonnes in the previous year.
The USDA predicted wider use of high-yielding varieties (HYVs) and hybrid seeds in the marketing year of 2020-21 that stretches from May to April.
"There is a growing preference for HYVs and hybrid seeds because of higher yields."
The US agency also predicted that Bangladesh's rice import would increase to 200,000 tonnes in fiscal 2020-21 to meet the additional demand caused by the pandemic.
Import of wheat, the second most consumed grain after rice, is also forecasted to rise to 64 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2020-21 from 63 lakh tonnes in the outgoing fiscal year.
Wheat use will continue to rise in diversified bakery items and processed foods amid growing consumer demand for wheat-based products and low international prices, according to the report.
The agency said wheat acreage may increase to 3.50 lakh hectares in the next marketing year of May-April from 3.40 lakh hectares in the outgoing year.
"Some farmers are expected to plant wheat in place of corn on expectations of higher profit margins and reduced exposure to wheat blast, a fungal disease that impacted Bangladesh's wheat harvest two years ago," said the USDA report.
Wheat production is likely to increase to 12.5 lakh tonnes in the next season riding on favourable weather conditions.
The growers will bag 12 lakh tonnes of wheat, which is harvested in April, during the outgoing year of 2019-20.
"Farmers have expressed optimism about this year's crop, stating that wheat blast was not as big of a concern this year relative to the previous crops," the US agency said.