Food production in Bangladesh marked a consistent rise over the last few decades, riding on which the country is marching on its way to achieve agricultural sustainability. This result also involves significant development in every other sector of the economy. Experts are of the opinion that the major reasons behind the boost in food output are expanded cultivation of high yielding crops, mechanisation of agriculture, adoption of improved technologies and best farm practices, balanced fertilisation and expanding irrigation facilities, pest controls etc. Besides, the horticulture specialists think that continuous research for innovation and expanded cultivation of high yielding and climate smart crop varieties in profitable cropping patterns could further increase food productivity. This country is now producing about 34.8 million metric tonnes of clean rice per year - thereby making the country self-reliant on meeting food demand for its 170 million population.
It is also maintained that the growth in rice production will continue to increase following various pragmatic steps of the government to further enhance its output by almost 1.5 times by 2050 to feed an estimated population size of 220 million by then. The farmers have started using developed and eco-friendly agricultural technologies and practices almost having no adverse effects on the environment. For a sustainable agriculture, Bangladesh has to ensure effective extension services in farmers' group approach together with improved technologies and proven practices for farmers using video-based training to solve common agricultural and natural resource problems.
Alongside this, emphasis on expanded adoption of the resource-conserving technologies and practices like integrated pests and integrated nutrient managements, reduced amount of tillage and agro-forestry for sustainable agriculture has to be there. It is also needed to be stressed that for reaching quality seed of high yielding crops and transferring technologies for seed production of hybrid crops to farmers' level along with providing necessary ICT-based training on latest technologies to increase food productivity are also needed. The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) at its regional office discussed that food production continued increasing consistently in Rangpur region as elsewhere in the country following various pragmatic and timely steps of the government.
During the year 2016-17, farmers produced over 3.4 million tonnes of rice and wheat in all the five districts under Rangpur region as against over 1.9 million tonnes food demand of 16.1 million population in the region with over 1.5 million tonnes surplus food at that time. The farmers produced over 2.9 million tonnes of rice and wheat during 2008-09 against over 1.7 million tonnes food demand of 10.4 million population at that time with over 1.2 million tonnes of surplus food in the region. A horticulture specialist working at the DAE's regional office said that food productivity would continue to increase as farmers were using quality seed, more compost fertilisers and latest technologies in crop cultivation.
About 90 per cent of the total 745,000 hectares of cultivable lands have been brought under irrigation facilities using 252,000 irrigation machineries now as the irrigated land area was 65 per cent a decade ago in the Rangpur region. Cultivation of flood-tolerant, drought-tolerant, cold-tolerant, hit-tolerant and disease-tolerant crops and zinc- and vitamin A-enriched crops is also expanding every year to increase food output and meet nourishment of the population.
Bangladesh is still an agrarian economy and the agriculture sector needs to be taken more care of so that the country does not need to import food items under any circumstances. Though food production across the country shows a considerable rise, but still the country has to import every year a significant quantity of food from abroad. Even this year, about 4.5 million tonnes of food items had to be imported. A sustainable agriculture will mean doing away with such big quantity of food import. Albeit a bit strangely enough, Bangladesh at the same time exports food items every year. But what the country needs to ensure first is that it has to produce sufficient food for its people without importing any food grain. Only then, as a nation we may claim that Bangladesh's agriculture has achieved sustainable growth and we are self-sufficient in food production.
Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre.
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