Rice production in the ongoing Boro season might be affected severely as 'heat stress' has hit paddy fields in nearly 30 districts in Bangladesh.
Experts apprehended that the government's target to produce 20.5-million tonnes of Boro rice would be tough to achieve if the damage further spread to more fields.
Heat stress started shocking matured paddy plants soon after a nor'wester swept over the country on April 04.
The field service wing under the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) said their primary reports showed the stress had affected 63,000 hectares of land in 27 districts.
An official at the wing said the affected area might be much more as data on another two or three districts is yet to be added.
He said a report on the issue would be made public on Monday.
The official said stress has been causing damage to the crops which are at flowering and grain-filling stages.
Green plants are turning gray just in hours, he said.
Agronomist and former teacher of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University Prof Abdul Hamid said stress might seriously affect the spikelet fertility and grain quality of rice.
Heat stress has already affected paddy crops in Netrakona, Mymensingh, Kishoreganj, Sunamganj, Bhola, Bogura, Kushtia, Rajshahi and other districts.
Mr Hamid said heat stress happened mainly due to an imbalance of temperature.
The temperature was more than 36 degrees Celsius before the nor'wester while the storm brought a cold wave that created the shock, he stated.
Temperatures ranging from 27 to 32 degrees is suitable for rice cultivation in Bangladesh.
High temperature above 32 degrees normally puts a negative impact on the growth of rice.
The government agencies should also conduct a complete study on the varieties more vulnerable to heat stress, Mr Hamid said.
"We need such stress-tolerant varieties during Boro season to avoid crop losses in future."
According to the DAE, Boro has been cultivated on a record 4.88-million hectares of land this year.
The government is expecting 20.5-million tonnes of rice this year.
Prof Golam Hafeez Kennedy, an economist, said the government's rice output target would be tough to achieve if heat stress spreads further in April.
As Boro season meets more than 58-per cent demand for rice, he said, the government must deliver authentic data on crop damage due to heat stress quickly.
Mr Kennedy suggested that policy-makers take the matter seriously as rice prices have already hit the second highest ceiling.
The rice import-export policy should be reviewed following the data on rice production, he said.
Meanwhile, coarse rice retailed at Tk 48-52, medium at Tk 56-60 and finer quality at Tk 66-82 a kg in Dhaka city on Sunday, marking Tk 2.0-4.0 hike in the last one and half weeks, according to market sources.