Agricultural growth in Bangladesh


In June 1947, the British bourgeoisie Mountbatten declared partition of India. Bangabandhu dreamed of having a sovereign independent state with Bengal and Assam on the basis of the Lahore resolution of 1940. But the Western rulers made an agreement with the Congress and the British secretly without considering the interest of Bengal. As a result, India and Pakistan were divided excluding Assam and Calcutta in Bengal.

Bangabandhu has been searching for the liberation of the people of Bengal since the partition. Through various movements and struggles, people of Bengal united under the leadership of Bangabandhu and in exchange for the blood of 3 million martyrs in 1971 war of liberation, independent and sovereign Bangladesh took place on the world map. After the independence, Bangabandhu, with the experience gained during his long political career, clearly understood that agriculture could be only way for the development of Bangladesh. And so Bangabandhu set up all the agricultural research and extension institutes in newly independent Bangladesh.

Western rulers have exploited this territory for a long time. As a result, famine was a regular phenomenon in this part of Bangladesh. In 1970, the total grain production of East Pakistan was only 11 million tons, which was very inadequate for the population of East Pakistan. Then in 1971, due to nine months war, food production decreased and its amount stood at 99.36 lakh tons. Because of this, the newly independent Bangladesh faced temporarily food shortage in the post-independence period.

During that time, experts from international organizations, especially Oxfam, World Bank, USAID, and United Nations, feared a famine in Bangladesh and estimated that 5 million people could die in Bangladesh due to famine. Bangabandhu called for a green revolution at that time to restructure the agricultural system of the country. Besides, for the food security of the people Bangabandhu imported 3 million tons of food to meet the food shortage. However, on 15th August 1975, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed along with his family members. Bangabandhu's daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana survived due to being abroad.

Once again, Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangabandhu, became a blessing for the Bengali nation. Under her able leadership, the country's agriculture has continued to have unprecedented success over the past few years.

Bangladesh is a major agricultural country and the economy of this country is still dependent on agriculture. Living in 87,223 villages of agriculture-dominated Bangladesh, 70 per cent of the total population are directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. The government has adopted agriculture as a short, mediumand long-term vision, which has strengthened the country's economy. In the Corona pandemic, when the economies of all countries have collapsed, when there is food shortage in many countries, Bangladesh has kept its economy afloat around agriculture. 

In the 50 years from 1971 to 2020, the land area of paddy cultivation has decreased by 20 percent, but due to high yielding varieties, today Bangladesh is self-sufficient in food and Bangladesh is considered as a role model of development in the world.For a long time, Bangladesh was the fourth largest rice producer in the world.Recently, Bangladesh has overtaken Indonesia to become the third largest rice producer in the world.The country has produced 332.79, 373.64 and 386.95 lakh MT rice in 2017-2018, 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 fiscal year respectively.

Presently, Bangladesh ranks 3rd in the world in vegetable production. In 2019-2020 fiscal year, the country has produced 172.47 lakh MT of vegetables. Today vegetables are being exported abroad to meet the demand of the country. Total potato production in the country was 109 lakh and 110 lakh MT in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 fiscal year respectively. The annual demand for potatoes in our country is about 7 million MT. So, 4 million MT of potatoes are currently in surplus in the country, which has created opportunities for export. In 1970, the production of maize in this land was only 3000 tons and in 1971 it stood at 2000 tons. In 2019-2020, production of maize is 54 lakh MT. The Ministry of Agriculture is working relentlessly to increase the production of maize to 10 million MT.

Another important sub-sector of agriculture in the country is fisheries. This sector contributes 3.61 per cent to the country's GDP and agriculture to 25.30 per cent of the GDP. The country produced 42.77 lakh and 43.84 lakh MT fishes in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 fiscal year respectively. In 2019-2020, although the data of fish production is not available, its amount is not less than 44.50 lakh MT. According to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, if the trend of production continues, the amount of fish production will stand at 45.52 lakh MT in 2020-2021, which means that the country's fish production is gradually increasing. However, in 1983-1984, fish production was only 7.54 lakh MTs and in 2008-2009, the production was 27.01 lakh MT. Last year, the production of Hilsa in the country increased to 5,16,196MT, which was only 2.99 lakh MT in 2008-2009.

In 1972, Bangabandhu took the initiative to procure marine fish and declared "fish will be the second major foreign exchange earning resource of the country".  In collaboration with this initiative, the then Soviet Union came forward and gifted 10 marine trawlers to Bangabandhu and the fishing started. Bangladesh has conquered a huge sea area by the verdict of the International Tribunal and at present sea area of the country stands at 1 lakh 18 thousand 813 square kilometers from where the extraction of fishery resources is increasing day by day.

Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI) has developed artificial breeding and farming techniques for 23 endangered species of fish. To date, BFRI has released 61 fisheries and management related technologies. Crab and kuchia cultivation and its export is increasing. In 2018-2019, foreign exchange worth Tk 4,250.31 crore came to the country by exporting 73,171.32 MTs of fish and fish products. In 2019-2020, 70,945.39 MTs of fish and fish products were exported, in contrast to which the foreign exchange came to Tk 3,985.15 crore. In this way, the progress of the fisheries sector is going on.

Along with other sub-sectors of agriculture, livestock has been working diligently to meet the protein needs of the country. Bangabandhu arranged the first artificial insemination for the development of cattle breeds in 1973, which continues today even after 50 years of independence. In 2018-2019, 99.23 lakh MTs liquid milk, 75.14 lakh MTs meat and 1711 crore eggs have been produced. In 2019-2020, the country's liquid milk production is 106.80 lakh MTs, meat is 76.74 lakh MTs and egg is 1736 crore. In the meantime, the country is not only self-sufficient in egg, milk and meat production, but also have the opportunity to export large quantities of animal products.

The Ministry of Agriculture is encouraging farmers to increase food production in the country with various incentive packages, which has resulted in bumper yields across the country in the last few years including current boro season. It is estimated that 215 lakh MTs of rice will be available from current boro harvest. In agriculture, mechanization has already started with the special encouragement of the government and it is accelerating agriculture. In order to sustain the growth trend of paddy production in future, Ministry of Agriculture has taken initiative to expand hybrid varieties of rice in the haor region in advance, including domestic high temperature tolerant rice varieties.

In the 50 years of independence, the government has made Bangabandhu's dream a reality. Today, the country is self-sufficient in the production of rice, vegetables, fish, meat, eggs and milk for food and nutritional security of the people. Bangladesh has become a developing country and Hon'ble Prime Minister is determined to move the country from the list of developing countries to developed countries in 2041. In the way the country's agriculture and other sectors are moving forward, Bangladesh must be included in the list of developed countries in the future.


Dr. M. A. Awal is Member Director, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Farmgate, Dhaka. Dr.  M.Monir Uddin is an Agronomist, Columnist and Development Worker.