The Financial Express

Corona-hit rural farm sectors    

Published: May 04, 2020 22:22:16 | Updated: May 06, 2020 21:23:31

Corona-hit rural farm sectors      

Although mired in the thick of Covid-19 pandemic, the country's rural economy is dominated by paddy in the main. But the villages have expanded their farming activity to scores of other fields. It has occurred in the time-span of over two decades. The areas include farming of vegetables, fish, poultry, dairy and livestock. Apart from seasoned farmers with a large capital, many educated entrepreneurial youths have come forward to engage in 'parallel farming'. Their performance has proved impressive. It's because their farm products have found an ever-widening market in the nearby towns and the large cities -- especially Dhaka and Chattogram. Upon watching the abundant supplies of vegetables and chickens and eggs to Dhaka kitchen markets, there are reasons for many to feel upbeat about the favourable condition prevailing in these sectors. But the supplies at times show signs of thinning out, leading to price rise. Despite their arrival in the capital from nearby areas, the ongoing shutdown restrictions often block their passage to the city.

The vegetable growers in the distant areas are far from being benefited from this privileged condition. Due to supply disruptions caused by the shutdown, the farmers' vegetable products remain piled up in the fields. Except for a small volume sold at throwaway prices at local markets, the rest of the vegetables rot away. The same applies to fruits. To the enterprising young fish farmers, it is the obstacles in the supply of fishes to the city-based kitchen markets which appear to have lately crushed all their dreams centring on the bumper production of fish. The woes begin with the absence of wholesalers at the fish farms. They evidently feel discouraged to buy the fish products from growers for reasons of shutdown-induced hindrances along the way up to the cities. The biggest of the obstacles is caused by the suspension of the inter-district transportation services.

At present the Mymensingh division is considered a sprawling hub of fish farming. The fish farmers mainly inhabit Mymensingh, Netrokona and Kishoreganj districts. According to district fisheries authorities, the protracted continuation of the deadlock in the fish farming sector will result in losses of Tk 4 billion in Mymensingh alone. Around 112,000 small and large farmers are feared to have been affected. Hatcheries and nurseries dot several upazilas of Mymensingh. Besides, Netrokona and Kishoreganj have 26,000 and 27,000 fish farmers respectively. As a large number of the farmers are young and full of drives, they do not hesitate to borrow big amounts of money. This year was no exception.

No matter whether they have made profits or incurred losses, they will have to repay the loans. In the present situation, the possibility of incurring losses is set to be a cause of worry for them. Until they are cleared of the burden, the unpaid loans will remain a millstone around their necks. On being thrust into such a plight, the farm-owners will think twice before they invest in fish farming next year. This adverse situation calls for keeping apart a sizeable amount of money from the government stimulus for the affected fish farmers. The foremost of the imperatives now is expediting the supply of farm products through special road transport arrangements linking the cities. It will help both fish farmers and vegetable growers to come out of their present crisis. The fish and vegetable farming ventures, mostly driven by youth, can in no way be allowed to be stuck in the present deadlock for long.

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