The country's maize production has quadrupled just in a decade amid its rising demand propelled by a booming commercial animal feed industry, said sector insiders.
The output of the corn rose to 3.5 million tonnes in fiscal year (FY) 2018-19 from 0.87 million tonnes in FY 2010, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
Maize yield has expanded at 16 per cent on a year-on-year basis over the past one decade, a faster growth rate compared to any other crop, the data shows.
Meanwhile, feed industry has grown up to 4.0 million tonnes worth Tk 140 billion in FY '19 from 2.4 million tonnes a decade back, according to the Feed Industries Association of Bangladesh (FIAB).
The government is expecting a record 4.5 million tonnes of maize output this fiscal as the area has expanded by 8.0 per cent to 0.52 million hectares, Bangladesh Wheat and Maize Research Institute (BWMRI) said.
"Farmers are shifting to maize farming as they're getting more returns from the crop than that of rice or wheat," said Agrarian Research Foundation, Bangladesh chairman Prof Abdul Hamid.
"Maize comprises 50-55 per cent of commercial animal feed traded for poultry, fisheries and cattle rearing and dairy sectors," he said.
Mr Hamid said the booming feed industry has a great demand for maize as the country still faces a shortage of the raw material.
"Farmers get a minimum 11.25 tonnes of the produce worth Tk 0.18 million per hectare with a profit margin of 60-100 per cent," he added.
"When paddy framers get 6.5-7.0 tonnes of paddy per hectare where profit is uncertain," Mr Hamid mentioned.
He said the weather condition is much suitable for corn farming in the country's northern, north-western and south-western regions.
Maize farming is also gaining popularity in central districts like Manikganj, Tangail, Faridpur and parts of Dhaka.
Wheat and rice fields have been brought under maize farming on a large scale for the past few years, Mr Hamid also pointed out.
FIAB president Ihtesham B Shahjahan said the current demand for maize is 4.5 million tonnes.
"We're expecting that feed industry will grow to 8.2 million tonnes within 2030 from the current 4.0 million tonnes following a 10-per cent expected growth rate year on year."
"Our demand for maize will reach 10.0 million tonnes by the time," he continued.
Mr Shahjahan said local feed mills purchase 3.0 million tonnes of maize at Tk 18-24 a kg from domestic sources.
Farmers at least get Tk 15 for maize per kg, he said.
"Despite our repeated pleas, the government still allows export of the item which is harming the local feed industry," he said.
Maize Association of Bangladesh (MAB), a platform of maize importers, said nearly 1.5 million tonnes of maize was imported in FY '19 which is expected to be 1.8 million tonnes in FY '20 amid rising demand.
According to the FIAB, there are more than 200 registered feed mills in Bangladesh.
Only eight feed mills of them cover approximately 60 per cent of the domestic demand.
'Nourish' is the market leader in feed industry with its 13.60 per cent contribution. Other major players are Quality, Paragon, Aftab, CP, Provita, ACI-Godrej and Mega.
Nourish asst general manger Md Ruhul Amin said poultry, fish and cattle rearing have become a pivot of the agro-based economy and rural livelihood.
"Commercial poultry, cattle and fish farms have been gaining eminence over the past two decades. Thanks to this gigantic demand, commercial feed production has experienced 18-25 per cent growth in 10 years."
Apart from feed industry, Mr Amin said, the confectionery and hotel/restaurant sectors also consume a good quantity of the corn.
"Local industries prefer Bangladeshi corn for its better quality which encourages us to source maximum from the domestic markets," said Mr Amin.
BWMRI director general Dr Md Israil Hossain said expansion of maize farming started from 1997-98 in the country following rising demand for animal and poultry feed producers.
Asked, he said, "Despite FAW (Fall Armyworm) attack on some fields, we're expecting 4.5 million tonnes this year as the highest 0.52 million hectares have been brought under maize farming."
Agriculture secretary Md Nasiruzzaman said his ministry has a target to raise maize production to 10 million tonnes from the current figure within five years.
The land now used for tobacco cultivation will be brought under maize farming gradually, he told the FE.
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