A LARGE number of farmers have lost their boro production to the heat shock that swept over half of the country on April 4 when a rainless nor’wester took place. A Department of Agricultural Extension estimate says that more than 300,000 farmers in 36 districts lost their production to the heat shock, which blew over 68,123 hectares of boro rice field and about 1,500 hectares of other crop fields. The heat shock destroyed rice grown on 21,292 hectares and damaged production on many more hectares. The loss incurred then and later, as a mild heat wave has continued since, is unlikely to have any impact on the overall food security and even the boro production, given that boro has been grown on 4.88 million hectares. But what comes with concern is the loss on part of the growers, many of whom are fearful of the future as their major production was destroyed at a time when most of them are in financial crisis. In the absence of adequate aid in cash and food, most farmers are reported to have struggled to make their ends meet since the COVID-19 outbreak.
The government has plans, as agricultural extension officers say, to give aush seed and fertiliser to farmers free. But the aid appears to be way below the requirement of farmers, especially those who have lost their crop to the heat shock. Farmers were hit hard in 2020 by a number of events — the COVID-10-induced financial slowdown, cyclone Amphan and a prolonged flooding. Moreover, they found it hard to get fair prices for their produces. The government, which pledged to procure rice directly from farmers, largely failed as it neither could buy the intended amount of rice directly from the farmers nor could set the price effectively. Millers came to have their way even though the government took punitive action in the form of forfeiture of security deposits in cases of agreement breaches. But the forfeiture of security deposits, which is 2 per cent on the value of the agreed amount of rice for the supply by a miller to the government, could hardly set the issues right as the millers were interested in stockpiling, depriving the farmers of fair prices and the government of the agreed amount of rice.
The government must, therefore, assess the loss incurred by the heat shock, identify the farmers who have incurred the loss and help them with aid in cash and food. The government must also provide seed, fertiliser and cash to the farmers so that they can recover in the aush season. The government must also not fail with its boro procurement plan this season and ensure that farmers get fair prices for their produces.
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