Stimulus measures to boost farm yield

The government has planned a series of measures, including timely supply of farm inputs and low-cost loan support to farmers for boosting farm production.

These measures aim at ensuring food security as its topmost priority amid the Covid-19 that has hit the life and livelihood hard.  

Agricultural ministry has already taken up a plan in consultation with other ministries and stakeholders concerned to ensure supply of farm inputs and other supports for farmers across the country.

Bangladesh Bank (BB) has also re-fixed interest rate on agricultural and rural credits at maximum eight percent from nine percent and asked banks to speed up disbursement of loans among farmers in line with the government's strategy.

"There is no alternative but to maintain farm production . . . Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked us to give farmers all support including supply of loans and agro inputs such as seeds and fertilizers timely to keep farm production uninterrupted," said agriculture minister Dr Abdur Razzak.

In line with the Prime Minister's instructions, the agriculture ministry has already taken up a plan in consultation mainly with the finance and commerce ministries to continue the support for farmers, he added.

As per the plan, he said the agriculture ministry has asked its district and field level offices to prepare a plan about the requirements of seeds and fertilizers targeting the coming Aus season that mainly begins from mid-July.

Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) and Bangladesh Chemical Corporation (BCIC) have been asked to take preparation to ensure supply of seeds and fertilizers to farmers ahead of the Aus season, the minister added.                         Talking to  the Bangladesh Post, an official of Bangladesh Bank (BB) said  all banks have already been asked to lower the  interest rate on agricultural and rural credits at maximum eight percent to help boost the farm productivity amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Side by side, the central bank has beefed up monitoring for quick and proper disbursement of farm credits by banks, he added.

"Proper and quick disbursement of farm loans is our priority task and we have already asked banks to complete disbursement of farm loan in line with the government's instructions," said BB's chief spokesperson  Md. Serajul Islam.

He said, "The central bank is monitoring all banks round the clock regarding disbursement of farm credits."

Meanwhile, farm loans disbursement under the allied stimulus package of Tk 5,000 crore has made significant progress till March this year.

The government announced the stimulus package in the form of a refinance scheme in April, 2020 after the break out of Covid-19 in the country in March, 2020.

The period for the loans is 18 months, including a grace period of six months at both the banks' and clients' ends. The low-cost loan covers five agricultural sub-sectors-fruits and flowers, fisheries, poultry, dairy and livestock and the businesses selling agriculture commodities.

According to the BB, a total of 43 banks signed participation agreements with the central bank for disbursement of loans from the stimulus package to support the agriculture sector that has been affected like other sectors by Covid-19 pandemic.

All the banks achieved around 80 per cent of their respective loan disbursement target set by the banking regulator till January 15, 2021.

According to the central bank, Bangladesh Krishi Bank (BKB) is the top performer in terms of loan disbursement under the package as it has taken special measures to reach the credit to farmers across the country.

The BKB, a specialised bank for the farm sector, have been able to distribute over Tk 1,570 crore till February against its target of Tk 1,699 crore.

"We have been able to distribute loans properly and timely because all branch managers have been given proper instruction and guidance to speed up the loan disbursement," said BKB's managing director Md Ali Hossain Prodhania.

"The farmers of the country are showing a unique example in repayment of loans," he also informed.

According to the central bank, in the first seven months of the current financial year (July-January), farmers have repaid loans worth Tk 16,056.16 crore. The collection has increased by Tk 2,526.72 crore over the same period last year.

Earlier, in the fiscal year 2019-20 (July-January), Tk 13, 528. 42 crore was collected.