Timely boro harvests in the haor belt and other parts of the country have emerged as a big challenge for the farmers amid spread of coronavirus across the country, according to experts and Department of Agricultural Extension.
The department officials and agricultural experts said that growers were currently facing severe shortage of farm labourers to harvest their standing boro, the largest cereal crop of Bangladesh, amid ongoing lockdown imposed by the government to stop spread of coronavirus.
The department director general Abdul Mueed told New Age on Friday that the government was working desperately to complete harvest of boro in the haor belt and other districts to ensure cereal production uninterrupted amid coronavirus pandemic.
‘At this moment, boro harvest becomes a big challenge for us,’ he said, adding that about 7 per cent of boro rice has been cut so far in the haor areas and 50 per cent of harvest was expected to be completed by the end of April.
He said that government had already provided the farmers with subsidies to get at least 180 combined harvesters and 137 reapers to harvest their boro quickly amid shortage of farm labourers.
Local administration has been instructed to ensure hassle-free movement of farm workers travelling from one district to another, the DAE chief said.
Abdul Hamid, a farmer in Austagram of Kishoreganj, said that his three acres of boro cropland got matured as he grew early variety of rice.
He said that he was facing difficulties to start harvest the matured rice mainly for lack of farm workers in the area.
Hamid said that farmers in his area were facing similar challenge as the Met Office forecast heavy rainfall this week.
After boro season, Mueed, also an agriculturist, said that the government would provide more incentives to promote cultivation of Aus and Aman after boro.
Agronomists and agricultural experts said that coronavirus pandemic already started affecting agriculture in Bangladesh and it would seriously hamper the crop productions in the coming days.
Bangladesh, a heavily dependent on seeds imports for growing its vegetables and other cereal crops, would have to face serious crisis of seeds for crop production in next seasons due to the pandemic, they said.
Almost all seeds of vegetables, hybrid crops and high yield varieties are imported from India, China, Italy and other countries which have been badly affected by the pandemic, they said.
About possible seed crises, Abdul Mueed said that the government was currently focused on smooth harvest of boro rice to escape natural calamities.
In the long run, the government would ensure smooth supply of seeds by providing supports to farmers and private sectors, he said.
Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University’s agronomy professor Abdullahil Baque told New Age that the government should immediately ensure the farmers’ access to mechanised equipment for the harvest of their boro crop.
He suggested the government to provide immediate financial supports and incentives to the farmers to keep up agricultural production amid the outbreak.
Professor Baque asked the government to extend financial supports to local seed breeders and other private companies to boost seed productions to meet local demands.
‘If agriculture production gets hampered, the countrymen will face serious food crisis after the pandemic,’ he said.
The agriculture ministry asked the DAE field officials to ensure the government’s instructions about guidelines on COVID-19 to be followed by the farmers about during boro harvest.
DAE set target to produce 2.04 crore tonnes of boro rice across the country this year.
The haor region comprises parts of seven districts, including Sunamganj, Kishoreganj, Netrakona, Habiganj, Sylhet, Moulvibazar and Brahmanbaria. It provides about 20 per cent of the total boro rice output of the country.
The haor farmers largely depend on migratory labourers who come from Rangpur, Mymensingh and Faridpur divisions to complete harvesting crops quickly.
These farm workers could not move due to the countrywide shutdown since March 26.
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