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Rice Article: Bangladesh  

Rice production hits snag on small farmers' woes
By Obadul Ghani
Daily News Monitoring Service, March 22, 2004

The annual rice production target is likely to be missed as acute shortage and price-hike of fuel coupled with severe load shedding are hampering minor irrigation operations.

Most of the deep and shallow tube wells are lying idle due to the crisis affecting irrigation in 92 per cent of the cultivable land.

Sources in the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation said during mid-March, irrigation should be ensured for good boro harvest as the weather in the second and third weeks of the month remains considerably dry.

The Rural Electrification Board and the Power Development Board, unable to meet the electricity demand, resort to load shedding in the rural areas at this time.

PDB sources said the net load shedding this season is around 700MW as privatised Meghnaghat Power Supply Centre has tripped off abruptly due to mechanical fault.

The farmers are, however, reluctant to accept it as a valid reason for their misery.

The diesel crisis this season has also affected the farmers very badly. The fuel crisis has been largely attributed to hoarding by unscrupulous traders.

Some farmers of Dullah and Paragram villages of Saturia upazila in Manikganj told New Age that they are spending a large sum of money on irrigation as the price of diesel is very high and about 70 per cent of the irrigation pumps are run by diesel.

They blamed the government for not looking after their welfare when they were spending Tk 30 to Tk 50 per day for irrigating a decimal of land.

Jasim Uddin, owner of a shallow tube well of the same area said, "We are bound to pay Tk 5 over the government rate of Tk 20 for a litre of diesel. We are even buying kerosene between Tk 21 and Tk 22 a litre against the government rate of Tk 17."

Mollah Azfarul Haque, assistant geologist of a survey and monitoring project for the development of minor irrigation at the BADC, said normally the surface water level goes down from January to March and a large number of unplanned irrigation pumps operating in the same area may cause a severe water crisis in farmlands.

A BADC official of the irrigation cell said a large number of irrigation equipment is being used during the dry season. There are 23,434 deep tube wells, 887,274 surface set shallow tube wells, 36,749 very deep shallow tube wells, 79,850 low lift pumps and 22 floating pumps.

There are also 13,055 manually operated pumps, 4,965 artesian wells, 6,509 dug wells and the traditional methods of irrigation are being used in 32,511 hectares of land.

In 2003-04, a total of 4,018,237 hectares of land was brought under IRRI- boro cultivation out of 75 lakh hectares.

Meanwhile, assistant chief engineer (irrigation) of the BADC Md Eftekharul Alam said, "It is not a country-wide problem, but a particular one for a pocket of areas."

He also said the government can take punitive actions against the agri-input dealers for creating the artificial crisis.

An official of the department of agriculture extension also told New Age that the target of 13,028,000 tonnes of boro harvest may not be achieved due to shortage of agricultural inputs like seed, fertiliser and fuel from the beginning of the season.

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