Expressing concern over inadequate help for farmers, leading agricultural economists yesterday suggested formation of a special fund from where the growers would receive price support during harvesting period.
“Although there were emotions and voices raised on different platforms and in newspapers, they [farmers] did not get fair prices. But it [the issue] was not mentioned in the budget speech,” Prof Emeritus Abdus Sattar Mondol, former vice chancellor of Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, said at a seminar in the capital.
“During the harvesting period every year, farmers don’t even get the production costs in return. Yet there has been no special allocation in this regard in the budget, which should not have been the case,” he said.
Prof Sattar said the government should provide loan facilities and special budgetary allocations to farmers so that they get fair prices in the next harvesting season.
Yesterday’s seminar titled “Agriculture Sector in Fiscal 2019-20 Budget” was organised by the Agricultural Economist Association at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (Barc). The speakers included Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque and Planning Minister MA Mannan.
At the programme, noted agricultural economists said the government, apart from the price support, has to give each farmer a support of Tk 2,000 against an acre of land as their income have come down.
Prof Mondol also said the size of the proposed budget was big and it was needed for the country’s development goals.
He, however, said they did not get any visions in the budget speech to transform traditional agriculture into a commercial one, a promise mentioned in the Awami League’s election manifesto.
Question also remains whether the real farmers would reap benefits of the various incentives in the sector, he said, adding that the government will have to take steps to ensure that the real farmers get the benefits.
Prof Fakir Azmal Huda of Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, who presented the keynote speech at the seminar, said surplus paddy of small and medium farmers was a big problem and facing it was a big challenge. But the budget speech did not mention anything about the matter, he said.
Government subsidies which are given at different inputs of agriculture are not sufficient, he said.
In recent budgets, the government kept allocations of Tk 9,000 crore as subsidy in the agriculture sector, but it did not spend more than Tk 5,201 crore, he said.
Mentioning the government decision to have allocations “only for threshing machines for making the sector mechanised”, Prof Azmal said had there been allocation for all agricultural machines, the production cost would have been down.
Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque said the government had taken several steps for ensuring fair prices to farmers. He, however, admitted that there were some limitations in some cases.
“I am assuring you that we will take more steps so that farmers get their deserving price,” he said, adding, “The government is trying to commercialise the sector and make it profitable … you will get results shortly.”
He said they would provide Tk 2000 crore to Tk 3000 core in subsidies on agriculture equipment. It would come from the Tk 9,000 crore allocation as agriculture subsidy in the proposed budget.
Razzaque said a scheme regarding the subsidy was underway. It was not mentioned in the budget speech as the project was not ready then, he said.
Asked about the production cost, he said farmers spent most of their money in planting and harvesting crops as labourers are not available in most cases.
So they will provide price support to purchase farming machines so that the production cost becomes low, he said.
The minister also promised steps to stop middlemen from depriving the farmers of fair prices.
Planning Minister Abdul Mannan said they had taken several steps for the rapid commercialisation of the sector.