As the Prime Minister has aptly quoted the adage 'misfortune does not come alone', the Amphan havoc amid the covid-induced disasters has brought about more misery than the country was least prepared for at this critical time. Besides the massive toll on properties -- houses, structures of all kinds -- the damage done to two key sectors of rural economy -- fisheries and livestock is extremely high. Primary estimates count a loss of Tk 3.06 billion in these two sectors in Barisal and Khulna divisions. According to reports, approximately 24,350 fish farms were washed away and 50,138 cattle and poultry farms ravaged by the super cyclone.
Already reeling under shutdown with losses mounting with the passing of every single day, it was a double whammy for these sectors to suffer the onslaught of Amphan. In fact, ever since the country-wide shutdown -- though not officially declared so -- began months ago, fisheries, poultry and livestock sectors have been through the most difficult times. The losses were more because unlike many other sectors, these were not in a position to stop their daily production schedule and were confronted with almost a halt in marketing their produce. Investors and entrepreneurs, including experts, have been raising alarm bells to not only devise ways to rescue the sectors from terrible losses, but also to save millions of rural people dependent on them. Labour-intensive that they are, these sub-sectors are the pioneers of rural employment on a massive scale. Over and above, meeting increasing domestic demand almost to the point of self-sufficiency is no doubt a huge watershed not only for the rural economy but for the overall economy of the country as well.
The stimulus package announced by the government to provide soft loans has not been deemed satisfactory enough to help them ride out the crisis. There were suggestions from relevant quarters, including industry associations, to dish out funds not just in terms of loans on easy terms, but by way of cash subsidy and fiscal incentives in order that despite losses these vital sectors could regain the energy to get going.
Now, with the Amphan stretching the misery further, it is difficult to make estimations about the cumulative losses to these sectors. It is thus crucially important that immediate measures are in place to somehow contain the situation. Reports say the ministry of fisheries and livestock has asked for help to the disaster management ministry, but given the scale of damage, it is unlikely that the latter can do much unless the ministry of finance initiates suitable measures. In all fairness, these sectors need urgent government actions. And in so doing, it is important that the authorities talk to the stakeholders in order that actions are in the right direction. Financial support and fiscal relief could be a respite for them at this critical hour.