Aman Farming: Recurring flood ruins a season
Prolonged and multiple monsoon floods have disrupted cultivation of Aman paddy, which provides around 36 percent of total rice production in the country.
This is the period when farmers remain busy taking care of their Aman paddy every year but they are mostly sitting idle this time as a vast area of agricultural land is still submerged.
Traditionally, August 15 is considered the deadline for planting Aman. But this year, cropland in many areas is still under water and farmers could not prepare their seedbeds. Floods destroyed seedbeds or submerged paddy fields where Aman saplings were planted.
The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) is now suggesting farmers go for a late variety of Aman or cultivate winter crops after water recedes.
Delowar Jahan, a farmer of Ghior in Manikganj, said he prepared a seedbed but could not plant Aman as water inundated his field for the second time this year.
"None of the farmers in our area planted Aman as the water has not receded yet. Probably we will not be able to cultivate Aman this year," he told this newspaper over the phone on August 29.
"We will probably wait for a month and cultivate winter crops," he said.
"Even if we sow Aman now, there will be no production but we will miss our winter crops like mustard, lentils and vegetables."
Aktar Hossain Babu, a farmer of Panchkhola of Madaripur, cultivated Aman on 1.5-bigha land and got about 60 maunds of rice last year.
"A month ago, water receded from our land and we started preparing seedbeds for Aman. But it was washed away again in floods."
Then again, he said, farmers sowed paddy saplings but those were also washed away about three weeks ago.
Farmers from many areas faced a similar fate as monsoon floods hit twice or thrice in most of the areas since the end of June, inundating up to 40 percent of the country's total landmass.
The DAE office sources said Aman paddy on 70,820 hectares of land and Aman seedbeds on 7,918 hectares were worst affected in the flood.
Usually, farmers have to complete planting Aman by mid-August to get proper production. This year, many farmers could not prepare their seedbeds because of floods in July.
"If they cultivate it late, they would not have enough time to start cultivating winter crops after harvesting Aman," said Prof Abul Sattar Mandal, vice-chancellor of Bangladesh Agricultural University.
"It is not possible to say how much crop we are going to lose this year without the exact statistics on Aman cultivation," he said, replying to a query.
This year, the government had set a target to cultivate Aman in 59 lakh hectares of land, according to DAE sources.
Dr MA Muyeed, director general of DAE, said though already 75 percent of targeted Aman has been planted, farmers suffered because of multiple floods. So, the department has taken some other measures to minimise the losses.
"We have made seedbeds of late varieties of Aman. The farmers who are cultivating late are being provided with late variety saplings," he said, claiming that now there is a variety of Aman which can be planted till September 15.
The department has made seedbeds in 5,562 thousand hectares of land which is more than enough to fulfill Aman cultivation target of the government.
Besides, the government has reduced the price of fertiliser. And the agricultural department is encouraging farmers to plant Aman in a row and use insecticide which will help them to get good production, he said.
Last year, farmers cultivated Aman in 56,21,949 hectares of land and the production of Aman was 140,54,872 tonnes.
"Aman is our second largest staple crop. It covers around 36 percent of our total rice production. But this year many farmers could not cultivate Aman," said Akhter Ahmed, country representative of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
On August 20, Agriculture Minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque said the flood has damaged crops worth about Tk 1,323 crore on 1.58 lakh hectares of land in 37 districts.
"It is the time for sowing Aman seedling but the water level is increasing in some areas which is concerning," he said at a press briefing.
Mentioning that floods affected the country thrice -- it first hit 14 districts between June 25 and July 9, the minister said they will recommend cultivating Rabi crops instead of Aman in areas badly affected by floods.
"If it is not possible to cultivate Aman in the flood affected areas, we've planned to launch free distribution of black gram seeds and fertiliser. Black gram seeds worth about Tk 3.82 crore will be distributed among 50,000 farmers," he added.