A question of food security
THE fear expressed by farmers in the northern district as well Sylhet and Mymensingh that their boro crops may die unless there is adequate electric supply for irrigation or there is rain in the next two weeks points to a matter of grave concern. According to the farmers, quoted in a New Age report on Tuesday, they have to face severe load shedding for 10-12 hours a day, due to which their irrigation pumps—deep tube-wells, shallow tube-wells and low lift pumps—fail to extract adequate water. Worse still, in the absence of rain, groundwater level in many of those areas is on a sharp decline. They are worried that if the condition persists for a couple of weeks, they will have to ‘use their cultivated saplings as fodder’.
Boro provides the lion’s share of our total demand for rice and is largely dependent on irrigation. While the major portion of the country’s total irrigation pumps is run by diesel, the number of pumps run by power is not insignificant. Hence, the ongoing power cuts may have an adverse impact on the ongoing boro production, thereby putting our food security at risk.
Already, due to the lower price of paddy, which was less than the production cost, farmers in many areas have shown waning interest in boro cultivation this year. According to a recent report, while the target of boro rice production was set at 18.5 million tonnes last year, it is expected to be 18.4 million tones this year ‘due to slightly lower planted area’.
The key figures of the government, including the energy adviser to the prime minister, have declared on several occasions that power outages would at least not hamper irrigation for boro cultivation. It is high time to make those words a reality. After all, the people can ill-afford further dent in their food security.
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