A sadly familiar tale
IT IS indeed a matter of grave concern that, even at the advent of the season, farmers have to sell boro paddy at a rate apparently below the production cost. As New Age reported on Sunday, it is selling between Tk 500 and Tk 550 per 40 kilograms in most areas, except northern districts — known to be the rice bowl of the country — where the harvest is yet to start, while, according to experts, the production cost of the same amount of boro ‘might be around Tk 550’ this season. When the harvest peaks, as Department of Agricultural Extension officials in Dhaka predicted, in 10 days, the price situation may deteriorate further.
It has unfortunately become commonplace in recent years that farmers are subject to incurring losses when they produce a bumper crop, be it paddy or potatoes or the like. As we repeatedly commented in these columns quoting experts, to make a difference, the government needs to make timely interventions in the market, especially by setting a minimum price for the crop in a bid to give price support to the cultivators in the first place. Regrettably, however, the government is yet to effectively respond to such suggestions.
True, there have been procurement drives, particularly after every boro harvest in the past three years or so. But it is also true that such a drive has made little success thus far as it has hardly been conducted on time. In almost every season so far, the incumbent government has started its drive to procure paddy when the farmers, especially the small and medium ones, have already sold their crop to meet their day-to-day expenditure and repay the money that they generally have to borrow from others to meet the cost of production. Allegations have it that such an untimely drive is, in fact, intended to benefit a group of rice traders, who usually collect the crop from growers early in the season at a cheaper price.
The incumbents need to realise that all this may not only prove their much-touted steps regarding agriculture, including providing low-interest loans and agricultural inputs like fertiliser to farmers, self-defeating but also eventually make the latter look for options other than growing crops. They need to declare its boro procurement drive before the harvest peaks setting the price higher than the average cost of production.
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