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CS Karim argues for continued fm subsidies

ที่มาของบทความ:admin เรียกดู:发表เวลา:2022-11-29 20:24

Adviser Dr CS Karim has argued strongly for continued state subsidies for Bangladeshs resilient farmers, recounting how they battled and won, in the wake of successive disasters in 2007.

The state has to support them, he told diplomats, donors and editors Monday, in a presentation titled A saga of resilience.

The government, with all its might and machines, must continue to assist our real heroes, the farmers of Bangladesh, the adviser said, reviewing his two years at the helm of the agricultureministry.

Now that it has been proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the rewards are far greater than the investments the state makes in the process, he said, I would argue, in strongest possible terms, that there is no alternative to continued support to our farmers.

Karim referred to the first-ever direct cash handout to farmers to pay for their irrigation fuel, heavily subsidised fertiliser and rice price support through a public procurement scheme.

He reminded his audience of the days of despair in 2007 when in some countries sporadic bread riots were reported and Bangladesh suffered two consecutive floods-in August and October-and then Cyclone Sidr, in November. Queues for food, even when it was available on the shelves, were becoming longer in some countries.

The World Bank just last month advised the government to reduce direct subsidy to the agriculture sector, spreading it to other sectors to manage food price inflation. Paying high prices to producers is not necessarily the answer, a WB official intimated at a regional conference in Dhaka. Speakers at the conference, the finance adviser among them, rejected the Banks advice.

Karims presentation on Monday virtually buried all arguments against subsidies to farmers-a subject of fierce debate since the 1990s triggered by conditions imposed by lenders such as the Bank.

WB and UN officials were among the Dhaka Sheraton audience Monday evening.

As Karim chased a bumper Boro crop earlier this year, travelling across the length and breadth of the country, many dismissed his hopes as another disaster waiting to happen.

But, the Boro production did break records after a combination of many factors helping the farmers.

It probably proved that behind every dark cloud, there is a silver lining, and that hopes and opportunities often emerge from the depths of despair, Karim said in his presentation. Obviously, our farmers were the heroes. And he explained why: Their resi-lience aside, they also showed their innovative responses to the evolving market dynamics, and their readiness to accept efficient and cost-effective technologies and solutions.

Among other forms of support, the government spent Tk 250 crore in direct cash subsidy for diesel. The government also bought Boro paddy and rice at prices that ensured a 40 per cent profit for the farming community.

This was a necessary intervention. You could not have bought (from the global market) even if you had had a lot of money then, he told m, recalling of the panic caused by falling production worldwide. Prices were Tk 18 and Tk 28 for a kilo of paddy and rice, respectively. This meant that the value of the total paddy was about Tk 45,000 crore. The total profit from paddy was about Tk 18,000 crore or $2.6 billion, most of which went into the rural economy during the last 2-3 months.

This would have had far reaching impacts on economy of Bangladesh-a safety net in itself of huge proportions.

The adviser listed measures to deal with the post-disaster crises, mentioned the major policy interventions and long-term steps launched by the caretaker administration. The newly-created Agricultural Research Trust Fund, tasked with mobilising resources for agricultural res-earch, got about $50 million of public funds. The Agriculture Research Foundation, another new entity, will award grants for research in both public and private sectors.

He also alerted future leaders of the challenges that lie ahead.

Rice demand is projected to grow at a rate of 2-2.5 per cent per year (at least 330,000 tonnes) based on population growth, Karim said.

Food security has to be attained mainly through domestic production, he said and added: Improving quality of seed remains a key challenge as it affects yields.

The problem that will continue to stress agriculture production is availability of fertiliser, Karim cautioned. Uncertainties of price and availability of fertiliser will call for strategic intervention.

In Bangladesh, according to government statistics, agriculture gives jobs to about 63 per cent of the labour force, and remains one of the main sources of livelihood for a vast majority of the rural population. Much of its contribution, however, remains unaccounted for in the statistics of the formal economy.

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