The government has extended all-out cooperation to support farmers to harvest their paddy during this harvesting season. In the latest move to stand by the side of the helpless farmers, various district officials, teachers, activists of the ruling party Awami League and its allied organisations are offering voluntary services to pick the ready to harvest paddy.
Meanwhile, in a bid to protect and prioritize sale of local varieties of the rice the National Board of Revenue (NBR) on Wednesday raised the regulatory duty on rice imports to 25 percent from 3 percent while keeping the customs duty unchanged at 25 percent, in keeping with the government’s decision to curb imports of rice.
The revenue board also imposed a 5 percent advance income tax on rice importers in a bid to curb import. As a result, the total duty and tax on rice import increases to 55 percent (customs duty 25 % + regulatory duty 25 % + advance income tax 5 %). Sources from various districts said that most of the farmers are unable to afford hiring professional labourers for cutting the paddy despite a fairly good yield this year. As such the move for voluntary harvesting of the crops is now going on across many districts.
The voluntary services to help the farmers comes following a recent directive from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to ensure fair prices of the major crop. Sources said that for the last few days respective district officials, teachers and students as well as various organisations of AL are taking part in the harvesting initiative along side the farmers.
“I was running out of thoughts on how to salvage myself from this crisis of hiring (expensive) labourers to harvest paddy on about two and a half acres of land,” said Shafiq Ahmed, a veteran farmer in Baladiar in Puthia in Rajshahi district. The smiling old man said, “I am so happy to see so many people coming to help me harvest my crops.”
The voluntary harvesting initiatives are indeed worth praising as the helpless farmers in many places almost abandoned their yield facing the ‘labour crisis’. Professor Syed Abdullah Al Mamun, Chairman of International Relations Department of Rajshahi University set an example of such appreciation. He convinced his students as well as local youths to help the farmer by harvesting the crops.
His initiative to cut the ready-to-harvest crops covered over 50 bighas of land giving the farmer a huge benefit. In Sherpur district, students and teachers of different colleges, and local youths harvested the ripe paddy on huge areas of land in village Munshichar at Char Mucharia union of the sadar upzila.
Meanwhile, district administrations across the country have already started procurement of boro crops directly from the farmers in order to ensure getting fair prices of the staple food. The paddy procurement programme will continue till August 28. Country’s rice mill owners, in the meantime, are also asked to purchase paddy from the farmers in order to ensure fair prices.
Farmers are learnt to be paying extra to have the paddy harvest and transport to godowns but the labour crisis is continuing. Often, an entire day is wasted simply to find labourers to cut the paddy or transport the harvest. In most districts, like in Mymensingh, Jamalpur, Sherpur and Netrakona the farmers try to harvest the paddy during this hot and humid season, a perfect time for harvesting.
Meanwhile, the student wing of the ruling party – Bangladesh Chatra League (BCL) — on Wednesday announced the voluntary services of helping the farmers by all its units across the country. Apart from them, government officials including deputy commissioners and upazila nirabahi officers are also taking part in the paddy harvesting.
Talking to journalists on Tuesday Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzak said that they have put tremendous pressure on the rice mill owners to directly purchase paddy from the farmers for maximum benefit of the farmers. “We are going to purchase 12 lakh metric tonnes of rice and two lakh paddy. Over 3.50 crore metric tonnes of rice is produced in the country. We have also taken initiatives to export rice,” he said.
Earlier the government set the rice production target at 3.64 crore metric ton (MT) for the current fiscal year (2018-19) with an emphasis on high yielding variety (HYV). Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food Ministry also suggested procuring paddy directly from the farmers in order to give advantages to the farmers.
The committee also recommended for conserving the paddy with transparency and stopping import of rice for the welfare of the country’s farmers. Meanwhile, in Khulna, upazila food office in cooperation with local administration on Wednesday started boro paddy procurement directly from the farmers in the district for ensuring fair prices of the staple food.
Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Helal Hossain formally inaugurated the food procurement programme at a function at Fultola upazila warehouse in the district. A total of 132 tonnes of boro paddy will be procured from four unions under Fultola upazila during the current season. Each card holder farmers can sell rice up to 3000 kilograms(kg) and price has been fixed at Taka 26 per kg.
In Natore, district food office in cooperation with district administration on Wednesday started boro paddy procurement directly from the farmers for ensuring fair prices of the staple food. Deputy Commissioner Md Shahriaz formally inaugurated the food procurement programme at a function at Kafuria union under Sadar upazila in the district.
District Food Controller Shafiqul Islam said price of paddy has been fixed per mound at Taka 1040. The DC said, “We are purchasing paddy from farmers, particularly marginal ones to ensure fair prices of their paddy.” In Rangpur, the government has started procurement of a record quantity of 2.24-lakh tonnes of boiled Boro rice, 14,641 tonnes of ‘Atap’ rice and 23,434 tonnes of Boro paddy in Rangpur division this season. Officials at Rangpur Regional Office of the Department of Food said that the procurement drive will continue till July 31 next in all eight districts of Rangpur division as elsewhere in the country.