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POST TIME: 22 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 21 November, 2019 11:30:54 PM
‘Govt to buy aman paddy from marginal farmers’
SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, Dhaka

‘Govt to buy aman paddy from marginal farmers’

Despite several hurdles, the government has decided to procure six lakh tonnes of aman paddy directly from marginal farmers. For one thing, the total available arable lands have been declining due to over-population and Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country. Agriculture minister Abdur Razzaque announced this while inaugurating the three-day ‘Foodpro International Expo-2019’ at the city’s International Convention Centre in Bashundhara yesterday.

“The price of rice has increased despite adequate stocks in the country. As per media reports, the price of rice has gone up at least Tk. 4 to 5 per kg. The government has taken various steps to increase food-grain production,” Razzaque said. The government wants to ensure

fair prices for paddy, he said, adding that six lakh tonnes of aman paddy will be procured during the current season directly from farmers.

“We’ll select marginal farmers in terms of procuring aman paddy through lottery. So, there will be no political influence,” Razzaque said. The price of paddy has increased at least Tk. 100 to 200 per maund after the announcement of the government’s procurement, which is good news for poor farmers, he added.

Razzaque has said the ministry always faces problems either for price increase or for price reduction, as the government has to take the responsibility in case of price hike or low prices, which is also criticised by different quarters. “The government really wanted to procure more paddy from poor farmers directly last year. But it wasn’t possible because of space constraints in public warehouses. The government is taking steps to increase the space for stocks,” Razzaque said.

Once Bangladesh had a serious shortage of food-grains and it had to import huge quantities of food-grains from abroad to meet the demand, the minister said, adding that Bangladesh has now become self-sufficient in food production.

He observed that though it is a disaster-prone country, Bangladesh has made huge strides in food production. “Bangladesh is moving ahead with the production of rice, the main staple food, and other food products. However, our problem is that the surplus production cannot be sold and farmers still face such problems as surplus rice,” the agriculture minister said. He further said, “We need to create jobs for the younger generation. The agricultural and processed agricultural sector can play a vital role in generating employment.”

There was a surplus of four million tonnes of potatoes in the country last year, he said, adding that it is important to add value to the product to get cheap prices for the product.

Razzaque said the government is working to encourage foreign investors as Bangladesh is a potential investment destination. The exports of agricultural products have now exceeded USD 400 million, he added.  Robert Douglas Simpson, country representative of Bangladesh at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, said Bangladesh’s agricultural products comprise a dynamic and powerful sector. “The private sector is doing very well in the country and products must meet international standards. This sector will go further if the quality is guaranteed,” the FAO representative said.