Small farmers' need for credit ignored
According to the latest Bangladesh Integrated Household Survey (BIHS) carried out by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), only 7.15 percent of small and marginal farmers (who constitute 76.6 percent of the total farmer population) have access to farm credit and 10 percent can avail agricultural extension services provided by the state. Conversely, big- and medium-size farmers who constitute 23.4 percent of the farming community enjoy 13.35 percent of credit and services.
Ironically enough, despite this lack of attention and services, the produce or yield per unit of land from these small-scale farmers is much higher than that of richer farmers with bigger land holdings. What this tells us is that even bereft of much-needed loans from state-run financial institutions and the services offered by agriculture extension, the small and marginal farmers are much more serious about farming than their larger counterparts.
Unless much-needed credit becomes easily available to the small farmer, it will be very difficult to fight hunger and malnutrition issues. As pointed out in the report, 30 percent of the child population in Bangladesh suffers from vitamin A deficiency and 44 percent of women are anaemic. Although we like to showcase Bangladesh as a country that has reached self-sufficiency in food production, our rice production has actually slowed in recent years with growth in farm sector coming down to 2.4 percent in the last five years in comparison to 4.7 percent growth in the preceding five years. We need to work out the problems associated with cumbersome and graft-ridden credit disbursement procedures to facilitate more credit to small farmers so that productivity may get a boost and malnutrition checked.