13.1 Introduction

13.1.1 Agriculture plays a vital role in the growth and stability of the country’s economy as is indicated by its share in GDP, employment and export earnings. At present, it accounts for about one-third of GDP and employs about two-thirds of the labour force. Exports of agricultural primary products accounted for about 12 per cent of total exports in 1996/97 and if exports of agriculture based intermediate and industrial products (leather, jute) are taken into account, its contribution comes to nearly 24 per cent. If the newly emerged ready-made garments which contribute as much as 51 per cent of export earnings is viewed in domestic value added terms, agriculture is the main source of export earnings of the country. Apart from these, the role of agriculture is unique for food security and nutritional status of people. However, as industrialisation proceeds, the output of agriculture will represent a declining share of the gross output of the economy while the share of manufacturing and services sectors will increase. Although the contribution of agriculture to the economy is likely to decline, it will continue to be the single largest contributor to income and employment of the rural population in the foreseeable future.

13.1.2 Crop agriculture represented a share of about 24 per cent in total GDP and about 73 per cent in agricultural GDP during 1996/97. Within crop sub-sector, foodgrain, particularly the rice crop dominated the country’s agricultural scenario in respect of both cropped area and production claiming a share of 74 per cent and 54 per cent respectively in 1996/97. Thus, development of rice crop has substantial impact on the sector’s performance. There has, however, been shift in the composition of agriculture over the past few years as indicated by gradual decline in the share of crop agriculture and increase in the share of non-crop agriculture (NCA) which consists of livestock, fisheries and forestry. The NCA, particularly the livestock and fisheries, have, of late, taken off largely through private sector initiatives showing robust growth of 7.98 per cent and 8.60 per cent respectively in 1996/97. Hence, it is envisaged in the Plan to develop an integrated agriculture including crops, along with food management, livestock, fisheries, forestry and environment through more efficient utilisation of available land and water resources for sustainable agricultural growth.

A. Crops

13.2 Review of Past Performance

13.2.1 Bangladesh made steady progress in crop agriculture in the post-Independence period. The cropping intensity increased from 148 to 179 per cent and foodgrain production almost doubled during the period from 1969/70 to 1992/93. Contributing about 75 per cent of the value added, crops form the largest sub-sector of agriculture. Rice is the dominant crop and largely determines the rate of progress in the agriculture sector and to a significant extent, that of the non-agricultural sectors. It covers about 75 per cent of the cropped area and accounts for about 70 per cent of the value of crop output. In fact, the entire growth in crop production is due to the growth in foodgrain production, particularly rice. Yield of other non-cereal crops such as pulses, oilseeds and vegetables almost stagnated, while that of wheat did not increase markedly.

13.2.2 In 1993/94 and 1994/95, foodgrain production declined as a result of depressed prices and natural disasters, particularly floods and droughts in the north-west, which is the country’s surplus grain production region. The average foodgrain production during these two years dropped to 18.71 million metric ton (mt) from the average of 19.31 million mt during the preceding three years from 1990/91 to 1992/93. While drought conditions prevailed during these years, the decline in rice production in 1993/94 also was due to both damages by floods and the farmers’ response to the fall in the price of rice in the preceding year as evidenced by more than 4 per cent decline in fertiliser consumption, more than 2 per cent reduction in area sown and similar decline in irrigation command area. In 1994/95, total foodgrain production was only 18.17 million mt as against the expected production of 20 million mt. This trend started improving from 1995/96 with a foodgrain production of 19.14 million mt. The year 1996/97 witnessed an all time high foodgrain production of about 20.43 million mt. Foodgrain production, though continues to depend on the vagaries of nature, increased substantially over the years, following the introduction of high yielding varieties (HYV) and application of modern inputs like fertilisers and pesticides; but its dependence on weather continues resulting in fluctuations in production. Wide fluctuations in production leads to large instability in foodgrain prices having serious implications for household food security and also for the welfare of the people.

13.2.3 Production of jute fibre reached as high as 8.66 million bales in 1985/86. The production level declined to 4.92 million bales in 1992/93 and hovered around this level since then. Sugarcane production has remained more or less around 7.50 million mt since 1987/88. Production of potatoes has shown a steady increase. It increased from 0.89 million mt in 1975/76 to 1.47 million mt in 1994/95. Other crops like pulses and oil seeds have shown only marginal improvement nationwide. However, implementation of a crop diversification programme (CDP) during 1990-95 in 125 thanas gave promising results in terms of yield per hectare of maize, pulses, oilseeds, potatoes, vegetables, etc.

13.2.4 As regards performance of modern inputs, the irrigated area increased to about 4.00 million hectares in 1996/97 from the level of 2.65 million hectares in 1990/91. Ground water irrigation covered 68.5 per cent of the total irrigated area while the surface water irrigation was only 31.5 per cent in 1996/97. The ground water irrigation witnessed significant expansion during the last two decades. Use of chemical fertilisers increased from 2 million mt in 1990/91 to 3.02 million mt in 1995/96. Public sector seed distribution (mainly rice and wheat) occupies only about 5 per cent of the total requirements. The large part of the seed requirement is met by the private sector.

13.2.5 The reforms of the agriculture sector have been quite pronounced and visible. For over a decade, a wide range of policy reforms have been implemented in the agricultural sector. Few of these are privatisation of input distribution, withdrawal of input and food subsidy, import liberalisation and a broadening of the scope of private investment in agriculture. In recent years, the coverage of policy reforms in the agriculture sector has substantially expanded to include minor irrigation equipment, agricultural machinery, seeds and agricultural trade.

13.3 Fifth Five Year Plan

13.3.1 Sustainability of high yield and environmental protection remain the principal concern in recent years. Loss of soil fertility followed by unbalanced use of chemical fertilisers, lack of adequate quantity of water in some areas as well as their appropriate conservation and management are the major factors causing divergence between potential and actual output of major agricultural commodities. Various studies indicate that the yield potential of the existing HYVs of rice is more than 4 mt/ha, whereas the average yield of most of the other varieties of rice is around 2 mt/ha. Major tasks during the Fifth Five Year Plan will be to address these issues. The specific objectives of the Plan will be to:

a. increase productivity and real income of farming families in rural areas on a sustainable basis;

b. attain self-sufficiency in foodgrain production along with increased production of other nutritional crops;

c. encourage export of agricultural commodities, particularly vegetables and fruits keeping in view domestic production and need;

d. promote adoption of modern agricultural practices in dry land, wetland and coastal areas;

e. ensure sustained agricultural growth through more efficient and balanced utilisation of land, water and other resources; and

f. encourage comparatively large farm to graduate into commercial farming.

13.3.2 Policies and Strategies : In order to achieve the objectives, the strategies/policies will be evolved and adopted to bring about necessary technical change. The following will be the specific policies and strategies:

a. improvement of the quality of seeds, particularly HYV and hybrid seeds and increasing their quantity;

b. development of modern, irrigated and least-risk agriculture with greater reliance on competitive markets through supply of agricultural inputs at low cost; making public investment more effective and keeping it limited to key areas as required to supplement private initiatives;

c. strengthening of the agricultural research and extension systems in order to develop new technologies relating to crop varieties, integrated farming system, organic farming, improved agronomic and agro-processing technologies, and for diffusion of the proven technologies;

d. development and dissemination of ecologically sound and sustainable technologies such as integrated pest management (IPM) techniques, and organic and bio-fertiliser use;

e. increasing profitable production of minor crops and thereby maintaining a balanced crop production and improving the nutritional status of the people;

f. development of suitable technologies in rain-fed, dry land and wetland farming system to enhance the productivity;

g. restoration/improvement of soil fertility through better management of the organic matter of soil to improve yields of crops; towards this end, production and use of bio-manure will be encouraged;

h. assistance to small and marginal farmers in forming groups and associations which can (i) enhance production and productivity, (ii) sustain agro-business enterprises on their own, (iii) absorb more credit fund and (iv) adopt/disseminate technologies;

i. participation of NGOs in the agricultural development process;

j. improvement and conservation of plant and genetic resources through collection and conservation of germ plasm;

k. facilitation of access to markets and the promotion of efficient marketing system;

l. formulation of integrated land use policy conducive to optimum use of agricultural resources;

m. implementation of measures to cushion and minimise the damage to agriculture and rural economy brought about by natural calamities;

n. development of the capabilities of rural women and the youth to contribute more to agricultural and rural development;

o. restructuring of the existing institutional set-up to cope with the changed need;

p. development of human resources through education, training and motivation;

q. development and dissemination of appropriate location-specific and cost-reducing production and post-harvest technologies for reduction of post-harvest losses and the removal of transport bottlenecks; and

r. adoption of policies and regulations that will ensure sustainable agricultural development;