The Financial Express

Food security at a stake

Rice acreage declines both in Aus and Aman season

| Updated: September 12, 2022 09:00:02

Rice acreage declines both in Aus and Aman season

Rice acreage in both Aus and Aman seasons, which comprise 45 per cent of the country's rice supplies combined, has shrunk notably this year, causing a great concern for food security.

The astronomical hike in diesel price during July-August drought as well as a fertiliser supply crunch has made the situation critical, forcing Bangladesh to source grains from abroad, said insiders.

The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) discloses that Aman has been planted on 5.4-million hectares of land until September 07 against last year's 5.6-million hectares.

Some acreage could further be brought under farming in the next one or two weeks, a DAE official said.

The government had a target to produce 15.5-million tonnes of rice on 5.9-million hectares under Aman farming this fiscal, said the DAE and the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).

However, the acreage this year is almost 0.2-million hectares short of last year's, when the Aman output was an all-time high of 14.95-million tonnes.

Aman season comprises 36-38 per cent of the country's total rice demand.

According to the DAE data, Aus acreage also shrank to 1.06-million hectares this year. It was 1.15 million hectares in fiscal year (FY) 2021-22.

Aus cropping continued to contract for two consecutive years, according to government data.

Aus production dropped to 3.0-million tonnes in FY22 (mid-March to August) after reaching a record 3.28-million tonnes in FY21.

DAE officials said 76 per cent of Aus harvest has so far been completed this year while the total production might be an estimated 2.8-million tonnes.

Prof Golam Hafeez Kennedy, a farm economist, said acreage in both Aus and Aman seasons might be lesser than predicted by the DAE.

The July-August drought hit most parts of the country and the diesel price hike during the same period when supplementary irrigation became mandatory for farmers.

Prof Kennedy said acreage might have declined by at least 10 per cent amid water crisis, rising costs of irrigation and north-east floods during seedling time.

"Production might decline to a decade low this year; the government should prepare itself to tackle any possible shortage to ensure better food security."

Agrarian Research Foundation Bangladesh chairman Prof Abdul Hamid said the government claimed an inventory of fertilisers, but farmers did not get required inputs, especially in August, the key month for fertiliser application on Aman crop.

Many farmers failed to source potash despite offering double or triple the price for the input, he added.

Prof Hamid said there is no chance that crop yield per hectare could be increased this year for those reasons.

Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation secretary Golam Sarwar said, "Based on field reports, we predict that 10-12 per cent farmers did not go for Aman farming this year amid drought, pricey diesel and fertiliser shortage."

Prof Hamid said the government has started taking preparation a little bit later.

He suggested that rice imports be opened for all traders at zero duty for the next few months following such gloomy future.

Meanwhile, the government has permitted 383 traders to buy 1.06-million tonnes of rice within October 31.

It reduced duty in two stages, from 65.5 per cent to 25.5 per cent and again to 15.2 per cent.

However, private companies have so far brought 0.08-million tonnes of rice.

Bangladesh also arranged 0.53-million tonnes of rice from Vietnam, Myanmar and India, and 0.5-million tonnes of wheat from Russia under the G2G (government to government) modality.

However, rice prices showed a slight decline but the staple is still selling at much higher rates.

Coarse rice sold at Tk 52-56, medium at Tk 58-64 and finer at Tk 72-98 a kg in city markets.

The current rates are 8.0-16 per cent higher than that of a year ago, according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh and city groceries.

[email protected]

Share if you like