Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday said that the country is yet to achieve the overall self- sufficiency in food. "[When it comes to] overall self sufficiency, [I'll say] no. But, self sufficiency in rice is yes, in food grains, mostly," he told reporters after visiting director general of Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Jose Graziano met him at his office at the Economic Relations Division (ERD). Muhith said the country has shortages in wheat production, but it is almost self-sufficient in maize output. "But, still we have a better prospect for more maize production. We always have shortages in wheat because we can't produce more than one million tonnes a year," he added. The finance minister said the overall self-sufficiency also means meat, egg, milk and fish. The FAO DG said the organisation has some regular and emergency programmes in Bangladesh involving $ 100 million which are engaged in tackling cyclone, drought and heavy rains. "We've decided to integrate these two programmes (regular and emergency)," he added
Food grain production and self-sufficiency
by MA Taslim
ONE of the redeeming features of our economic development during the last four decades has been the steady increase in food-grain production despite all odds, both natural and man-made. The country barely produced enough food grains to feed the population when it emerged as an independent nation. The total production of food grains (mainly rice) was less than 10 million tonnes in 1972-73. Scarcity of food, mal-distribution and incorrect polices contributed to a devastating famine in 1974 in which tens of thousands of people perished. The famine left an indelible mark on the psyche of the government since then. The attainment of self-sufficiency in food production became a major objective of economic policy notwithstanding the fact that serious doubts were raised if the famine was due mainly to a food shortage (AK Sen). Efforts of successive governments and the hard work of the farmers paid rich dividends; rice production increased by three and half times by 2011-12.
What is remarkable is that this large increase in rice production was achieved with a dwindling supply of cropped land. Bangladesh had a very adverse land–man ratio, which progressively worsened as the population size increased over time. The rising demand for land for new housing, infrastructure and other economic activities gradually encroached on agricultural land. Net cropped area declined at an average annual rate of 0.2 percent during the post-independence period (Table 1). This could accelerate in future. In the face of a dwindling supply of cropped land, farmers took to multiple cropping to increase the effective supply of arable land. Gross cropped area increased by 0.6 per cent per annum during this long period. However, the increase in gross area explains only a small part of the increase in rice production. The greater part was achieved through an increase in the productivity of land. The yield rate of rice increased from 0.34 tonnes to 0.91 tonnes per gross cropped acre between 1972-73 and 2010-11. The higher yield was brought about by a rapid diffusion of cultivation of high-yield varieties of rice and a reduction in the area devoted to low-yield local varieties of rice.
The cultivation of HYV crops required controlled water and chemical fertiliser. The privatisation of agricultural input marketing at the beginning of 1980s greatly facilitated the spread of mechanised irrigation. Area irrigated increased from paltry 3 million acres to 17 million acres. The spread of irrigation permitted widespread dry-season cropping. Since dry season crops were less likely to be damaged by weather conditions or floods, farmers increasingly leaned toward dry season cropping. Over time the importance of dry-season crops outstripped that of rain-fed crops in total production. There was little use of...