‘No worries’ for next six months | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 16, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:26 PM, May 16, 2020

Ample Food Stock, Bumper Boro Harvest

‘No worries’ for next six months

Bangladesh 3rd in global rice production

Once the Boro harvest is completed across the country, the nation is unlikely to face cereal shortage in the next six months.

Analysing  the food stock situation, experts said, by the time the current and  upcoming stock of Boro would be consumed, in the next six months, Aman  should be ready for harvest unless any natural disaster takes place.

But, they added, the main challenge  for the government in coming days will be ensuring supply of other food  items including fish, livestock and vegetables. Vegetables and fish  farmers are already facing hard times as they are unable to sell their  produce.

The prospect of a good harvest of Boro following an  increased production of Aman, higher wheat imports and fairly a good  food-grain stock in public godowns provide confidence that the country  will be better off in terms of food availability during its war against  the rogue Covid-19 pandemic.

Concerns, however, remain high  regarding the risk of price spiral of the staple rice as the Boro prices  are on the rise in the producing regions.

"We need not worry  about food as we have enough food stock. We had 12.75 lakh tonnes of  rice even before the start of Boro procurement. Now the procurement of  both Boro and wheat has begun. So, no worries for few months," said  Sadhan Kumar Majumder, the food minister.

This is only the public  stock that the government uses for supporting economically vulnerable  people. But the main stock remains with the farmers and others in  private sectors.  And this year, the Boro production was good, he said.

PUBLIC FOOD STOCKS

Until  May 11, rice stock at public godowns was 9.97 lakh tonnes and wheat  stock 2.82 lakh tonnes. The food ministry says the current food stock at  public warehouses is "satisfactory".

The government started  procuring paddy and wheat from April 26. The total target of procurement  is eight lakh tonnes of paddy and 11.5 lakh tonnes of milled rice  (parboiled and sunburnt).

The food department bought 104 tonnes  of paddy and 826 tonnes of rice until May 11. Besides, it procured  15,280 tonnes of wheat against the target of 75,000 tonnes from this  year's harvest.

The government has the capacity to store 19.3  lakh tonnes of food grains in its godowns. Besides the food stock, the  market has seen quite good supply of rice.

BORO RICE

Farmers  planted rice on 47.54 lakh hectares of land in the current Boro season,  according to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).

"Based  on crop cutting data, it can be said that we will be able to achieve  our Boro production target of 2.04 crore tonnes this Boro season," said  Md Shahjahan Kabir, director general of state Bangladesh Rice Research  Institute (BRRI).

"As we are going to have a good crop yield, we  will have a stock of rice for the next seven to eight months. There will  be no problem."

Boro accounts for more than half of annual rice production in the country.

In  a report on Bangladesh last month, the US Department of Agriculture  (USDA), also predicted higher Boro production this season, thanks to  favourable weather and low pest infestation.

Besides, Kabir said, the agriculture ministry gives incentives during the coming season of Aus paddy.

The  ministry last month declared Tk 9 crore of incentive to provide seed  and fertiliser to small and marginal farmers to encourage cultivation  during the Aus season. The government also reduced irrigation charge by  half for the pumps owned by Bangladesh Agricultural Development  Corporation.  

Aus cultivation target has been raised to 13.26  lakh hectares in the coming season, 20 percent higher from the previous  season. Aus production target has been set at 35 lakh tonnes, up from  27.75 lakh the previous year.

"We are also proceeding with good  plan regarding Aman. Everything will be good if there is no natural  calamity," said BRRI director general.

Boro is harvested in  April-May period of the year and it accounted for 54 percent of total  rice production at 3.64 crore tonnes estimated in  fiscal 2018-19.

And  the rain-fed Aman rice season brought 38 percent while Aus season  contributed to the rest 8 percent to the annual rice basket.

And increased production helped the nation to largely cut dependence on imported rice.

Rice  import tumbled 98 percent to 4,180 tonnes between July 1 and May 12 of  the current fiscal year from 205,790 tonnes in the whole fiscal of  2018-19.

"We are self-sufficient in rice," he said. "With record  production and harvesting of rice in every three months, there is no  scope of famine in the country. The main task is to ensure access for  all. At the same time, market should be monitored to curb price  volatility."

As per the USDA data, with a production of 3.6 crore  tonnes of rice Bangladesh stands in third position globally in rice  production after China and India that produce 14.6 crore tonnes and 11.6  crore tonnes respectively. Earlier Indonesia was in third position,  producing 3.49 crore tonnes of rice.

Agricultural economist MA  Sattar Mandal said nearly two-third of rice would come safely if there  is no unfavourable weather in the rest of the harvesting period.

"It appears that there would be good buffer," said Mandal, also a former vice chancellor of Bangladesh Agricultural University.

Quazi  Shahabuddin, former director general of Bangladesh Institute of  Development Studies (BIDS), said paddy farmers usually market 50-70  percent of total production of Boro.

So, from the production  forecast, it appears that marketable surplus of the grain would be one  crore to 1.40 crore tonnes, he said.

Mandal said focus should be  given also on Aman as much as possible as the rain-fed rice crop is the  second major crop after Boro. Aman accounts for 38 percent of the total  yearly rice production.

HOW MUCH FOOD NEEDED

Asked  how much food we need every year, Akhter Ahmed, agriculture researcher  and country representative of IFPRI,  citing USDA research said  Bangladesh had a supply of 3.73 crore tonnes of food grains (rice and  wheat) from May 2019 to last month.

As per the monthly statistics  of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Bangladesh consumed  total 3.58 crore tonnes of food grains in last one year, he said.

VEGETABLES, PROTEIN SOURCE

Asked  about the food stock situation, Dr M Asaduzzaman, former research  director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) said,  once the Boro is harvested, the country would not face any food shortage  at least for next six months.

So, the government now should concentrate on fixing the supply chains of vegetables and other food items, he said.

"Farmers  are unable to send their vegetables to different parts of the country.  The government should immediately fix it," added Asaduzzaman.

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