The revolution in vegetable production and food security
One of the main conditions for building a sound, strong and convincing nation is to ensure a safe food system. In addition to achieving self-sufficiency in food, if an unadulterated food supply is not ensured, the nation will gradually fall towards ill health. Safe food has been playing a vital role in the development of modern science and civilization. From the dawn of our sovereign Bangladesh, the idea of food security and safe food has been planned in all initiatives.
The people of Bangladesh have faced many disasters and famines. Natural disasters still strike us almost every year, but we have been able to overcome the famine. The population has been increasing over time, the amount of agricultural land has been declining rapidly and the land for food production has shrunk, but due to precise planning and a strong vision of strong political leadership, a wonderful revolution has taken place in food production and vegetable cultivation. Today, the food-deficient country is moving towards attaining food self-sufficiency. Bangladesh also is now a food exporting country.
Compared to other crops, vegetable production is quite profitable for the farmers at present, as the yield and income of vegetables are higher than other crops. In the last 10 years, vegetable production in Bangladesh has increased by almost 10 times. As a result, new jobs have been created, the income of farmers and workers has increased, women are being empowered, job opportunities are being created for the landless and the shortage of farmers has been reduced to a great extent.
Although it is a small country in terms of size, Bangladesh has achieved great success in vegetable production. At present Bangladesh is the third largest producer of vegetables after China and India. There is a regional pattern in vegetable production. Jashore, Cumilla, Narsingdi, Manikganj, Jamalpur, Rangpur, Joypurhat, Natore, Rajshahi, Kushtia, Chuadanga, Meherpur and some other districts have witnessed a revolution in vegetable production, which was unimaginable only a few decades ago. As a result, educated youth are leaning towards vegetable production with new technologies and innovative ideas. The situation of vegetable cultivation in the hills and coastal areas has improved to a good extent. In the coastal areas, new types of vegetables are being grown in the backyards, dams, fences and even on fish farms. There is a tradition of jum cultivation of vegetables in the hills and on the homestead. But the shortage of vegetables in the haor area is still noticeable.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, vegetables are being cultivated in 9 lakh 75 thousand hectares of land in Bangladesh this year. The production target is 2 crore 19 lakh metric tons. Around 142 types of vegetables are cultivated in Bangladesh.
Agriculture is one of our largest economic sectors, accounting for about 14 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). About 63 per cent of the total workforce is involved. About 30 per cent of the total vegetables are produced during the summer and monsoon seasons, amounting to about 5 million tonnes and a market value of around Tk 12,500 crore.
The winter season in Bangladesh is quite suitable for growing various vegetables. During this time various types of vegetables are cultivated. And its production is much higher. But it is a little difficult to cultivate vegetables in the summer. Because during this time there are various natural disasters including floods, droughts and storms. That is why it is necessary to cultivate different vegetables with a little caution at this time.
Summer vegetables can be cultivated from the Bengali months of Falgun-Chaitra to Ashwin. However, if you can cultivate in advance, the market price is higher. The main functions of vegetable cultivation are land selection and land preparation, light and ventilation facilities, irrigation facilities, and water extraction from the land during heavy rains. The fertile loamy soil of Bangladesh is very good for vegetable cultivation. Vegetables are a crop of a rather tender nature. That is why it has to be cultivated with a little care. The vegetable land has to be prepared with carefulness. The land is to be made flat. Therefore, if a good ladder is given immediately after each cultivation, there will be no big lump in the land. Irrigation and maintenance are facilitated by cultivating vegetables in a fence, and the yield is also higher. An adequate amount of organic or waste decomposing fertilizer should be given while preparing the land. If there is a lack of sap in the land then the land has to be prepared with a ladder and seeds have to be sown. Again, many types of vegetables have to be planted in the seedbeds, such as cucumber, chichinga, kankrol, sweet pumpkin and rice pumpkin. In these plots of land, seedlings are made and planted at certain distances. If the trees continue to grow after planting the seedlings, a ‘chhauni’ or ‘macha’ (shed) has to be made. Before planting the seedlings in the bed, chemical fertilizer should be given at a balanced rate.
As soon as there is weed at the base of the tree, it should be removed and cleaned immediately. In case of disease or insect attack, necessary measures should be taken to control it. The ants cannot take the seeds immediately after sowing, so insecticides have to be sprinkled in a line around the seedbed. If there are extra fruits in plants like eggplant, they cannot grow properly due to lack of nutrients. The fruits are small, distorted and inferior in size. The fruit-bearing capacity of the tree increases when the fruit is thinned.
In some cases, these summer vegetables have become a thorn in the side of the farmer. The government needs to take some immediate steps to remove these thorns. For example: Determining the location of purchase of summer vegetables based on Union Parishad, where farmers will keep their produced summer vegetables after a certain distance, schools, colleges and playgrounds can also be used in case of emergency. From here, with the help of police and other law enforcement agencies, vegetables can be purchased directly and supplied to Dhaka and other divisional cities.
In addition, under the supervision of the Ministry of Commerce, a team consisting of the local Agriculture Office, Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) and the Department of Agricultural Marketing can be arranged to purchase vegetables from a specific place in the upazila and sent to major cities. The Ministry of Commerce may issue notifications to the big super shops to go to the vegetable-producing districts and buy vegetables directly from the farmers. Here, too, law enforcement agencies can help them.
The survival of our people depends on the success of the agricultural sector. And the heart of this sector is the country’s one crore farming families, including a large number of small and large agricultural producers, who are not only providing food for millions of people but also providing some exportable products.
In the current Covid-19 situation, the country’s agricultural producers as a whole are going through an extreme crisis. Agricultural producers are not getting a fair price for any of the summer vegetables, paddy, jute, eggs, milk, chicken, or whatever they produce.
Moreover, at the consumer level, the price of all these things is quite high. That means money is going into the pockets of middlemen. This is happening all year round, but the crisis deepened during the pandemic. It is going to get deeper in the future.
Industrial producers can reduce or stop production at any time if the demand in the market decreases. But agricultural producers can’t do so. The resulting losses are inevitable. If this continues, the country’s farming community and agricultural producers will not only suffer but also the country’s food security will be threatened. In that case, the industries related to agriculture, such as the production and supply of agricultural inputs, etc. will also fall into a great crisis. Therefore, the government must take effective steps to save the farmers of the country and agriculture as a whole.
It is worth mentioning that Bangladesh is one of the largest deltas in the world and has a unique map of the vast plains except for the limited highlands. Needless to say, at a time when the country is moving towards rapid development in all fields, a class of greedy businessmen is indulging in the evil practice of food adulteration. The government is determined to defeat them. The use of modern technology is essential to eliminate all kinds of adulteration.
The demand for fish and rice as well as so-called fast food has increased rapidly. The world is now known as the Global Village. Modern food culture has developed in tandem with other countries of the world. An integrated position with European as well as Western and Eastern foodstuffs has been established. The new generation of Bengalis is becoming fonder of foreign foods. In this situation, similar food is being prepared in our country by capitalizing on the demand for these foods, but how safe and healthy the preparation is a matter of consideration. If the quality of these foods is not right, then we have to face health risks. Today’s young people will be the leaders of the future. If you eat adulterated food, you will not develop your talent, you will not develop good health and then there will be a huge void in the field of leadership. So quality unadulterated food is essential to building a strong nation.
The writer is a columnist and researcher. He can be reached at email@example.com