Farmers incur Tk 565b loss on shutdown

FE REPORT | Friday, 5 June 2020

The farmers incurred a loss worth Tk 565 billion during the 45-day general holidays announced by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus, according to BRAC research released on Thursday.

The findings of the study titled "Impacts of Covid-19 Pandemic on Agriculture and Implications for Food Security" were disclosed at an online press conference, organised by BRAC.

Dr MA Sattar Mandal, former vice chancellor of Bangladesh Agriculture University, Eleash Mridha, managing director of PRAN Group, Dr FH Ansarey, managing director and CEO of ACI Agribusiness, and Mohammad Anisur Rahman, director of BRAC Dairy and Food Enterprise, participated the event as panelists.

KAM Morshed, senior director of BRAC, moderated the event.

BRAC conducted two different studies - the first one focused on the condition of farmers and the second one on supply chain disruption and its impact on the peasantry. Some 1,581 farmers were interviewed as part of the study.

In accordance with the findings, the prices and sales of essential agricultural products, especially coarse rice and red lentils, went up during the early days of the pandemic due to panic buying.

The trend resulted in the rise of rice and lentil prices by 30-32 per cent while the tradeßrs had a 300 per cent rise in sales of these products.

But, a surge in the market demand did not benefit the farmers as they sold their stock before beginning the virus spread, it said.

The producers of non-relief and perishable items also had a hard time to continue production and sales of their products.

Overall, 88 per cent of farmers have incurred losses due to disruptions in production and marketing.

Some 66 per cent farmers mentioned lack of fair prices, 52 per cent pointed out limited operation of markets, 45 per cent reported higher prices of inputs and 28 per cent mentioned labour shortage as the major causes of their sufferings.

Due to damages to their produce and low prices, each farmer suffered a loss of an average of Tk 0.207 million during the 45-day period.

Based on the number of farmers in each of the sub-sectors, the value of loss was estimated at Tk 565.36 billion.

Of the farmers interviewed, 42 per cent reported that they had no way to cope up with the crisis while 60 per cent of crop and vegetable farmers said they had to absorb the losses fully.

Approximately 11 per cent of all farmers and 17 per cent of poultry farmers had to reduce their production while 2.0 per cent farmers stopped production, said the BRAC study.

The study also put forward a number of recommendations based on their findings, which include developing a farmer-friendly credit disbursement system, introducing innovative disbursement mechanisms through mobile financial services and NGOs, and reducing red-tape barriers.

Ensuring wide-scale injection of cash to boost people's purchasing power and ensuring the government's intervention in procurement and supply chain systems to prevent price falls were also suggested.

And doing so, it recommended establishment of collection centres for agro-produces closer to smallholder producers and, facilitating and providing incentives to boost the backward and forward linkages of the sectors. The research also stressed the need for developing sub-sector based short, mid and long-term plans, focusing on innovative tech-based agribusiness models and making quality seeds and other inputs available to farmers.