January 27, 2023
DHAKA – Despite repeated calls to lower the cost of farming and raise the profit margin for farmers, nothing seems to be happening as expected. With the Boro season underway, a report by this daily says that hundreds of thousands of farmers in 16 northern districts – which account for 26.5 percent of the total cultivable land for Boro paddy in the country – are struggling with what some have estimated to be a 25 percent rise in farming cost compared to last year’s. For marginal farmers, this is too much to cope with, a reality, one can imagine, they share with farmers across the country. That customers will be forced to pay even more than they currently do for this staple is a foregone conclusion.
The reason for the cost hike is not unknown. Ever since the government raised the prices of fertiliser and diesel – needed for the tiller machines and water pumps – everything related to farming has become more expensive. While the price of diesel was increased by 42.5 percent, the price of each kg of urea fertiliser leaped to Tk 22 from Tk 16 in 2021. The prices of pesticide, seed, farm labour, etc. have also risen simultaneously. Farmers in the northern regions of Rangpur, Dinajpur, Rajshahi and Bogura – each with four districts – face additional risks if the threats of flooding and extreme weather are factored in. In these regions, Boro will be cultivated on 13.25 lakh hectares of land. Last year’s average production cost in Rangpur and Dinajpur was Tk 14,900 per bigha, and in Rajshahi and Bogura it was Tk 17,450. There will be a heftier bill to pay for all this season.
The question is, how are the ordinary farmers going to cope with this hike-fest? Many can’t get a loan at low interest, and therefore have to turn to loan sharks just to be able to farm. For many, end-of-season earnings are unlikely to be sufficient enough to pay back and make a reasonable profit to prepare them for the next season, meaning many will have to suffer indefinitely as a result. Experts, therefore, have urged the government to provide farmers, especially those who are marginal, with cash support as well as further subsidies to cut down farming costs. True, the government already pays huge subsidies in agriculture. But it must do more to ease the struggle of farmers, because it is directly related to our food security.
In the end, what matters most is the interest of ordinary farmers and customers. We must ensure that the former is able to pay bills and makes profits, and the latter can buy at reasonable prices. Unfortunately, because of the all-round increase in the cost of just about everything and the machinations of unscrupulous traders involved in production and supply, both have been suffering for long. This must be reversed. We urge the authorities to take steps to reduce the cost of farming. They must ensure proper regulation to ensure no one can take advantage of the vulnerability of farmers and ordinary customers.