POST TIME: 19 April, 2020 09:52:26 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 20 April, 2020 05:59:00 PM
Experts warn of food crisis if COVID-19 is prolonged

Experts warn of food crisis if COVID-19 is prolonged

Despite sufficient production of cereal crops, Bangladesh is likely to face shortages of some agricultural produces like pulse, onion, ginger, garlic, wheat and edible oil if the present coronavirus situation is prolonged.

Besides, the farmers are most likely to face seed crisis in the future if necessary steps are not taken at this moment. 

Some agricultural experts made such predictions while talking to The Independent yesterday.

Earlier, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation warned that protectionist measures by national governments during the coronavirus crisis could create food shortages around the world. 

As governments imposed lockdowns on countries across the world, recruitment of seasonal or agricultural workers will become impossible unless measures are taken to ease the movement of workers for the labour-starved areas amid prevention of the virus spread, the UN body said.

“About 3.5 crore tonnes of rice is needed annually. Of them, about 1.90 crore tonnes comes from Boro. There will be no problem in near future if we are able to harvest this crop properly,” Professor Parimal Kanti Biswas of Department of Agronomy at Sher-e-Bangla Agriculture University told this correspondent.

He expressed worry at the wheat, oil and pulse exporters (countries), which are affected by COVID-19; and Bangladesh is likely to face serious shortage of these items in the days to come.

“Bangladesh imported 75 per cent wheat from abroad to meet the country’s demand. Besides, Bangladesh also dependent on imported pulse, edible oil including spices like onion, garlic and ginger. The nation is likely to face shortages of such products if global supply line collapses,” the agronomist said in reply to a query.

Prof Biswas was also worried about the farmers who may sell their products including seeds of various crops to meet their demands because of crisis due to COVID-19.

“There will be severe crisis of seeds in the days to come. The government should have taken special measures including preservation of adequate seeds. Besides, the government will also have to ensure distribution of cash incentives properly to marginal farmers,” he said.

According to Prof Biswas, preparation should have been made from now for Aus season.

Collective assistance is needed to harvest the Boro rice in Haor areas considering the importance of possible food shortages in the days to come, chairman of the Department of Agricultural Extension and Information System Dr. Muhammad Humayun Kabir told this correspondent.

“We are sufficient in food grain production. But, Bangladesh has to depend on other countries for other agricultural produces. So, we have to make preparation from now for next crops. If the COVID-19 situation is prolonged in the country as well as globally—Bangladesh certainly will have to face some problems including shortages of some products,” he said in reply to a query.

The government should have arranged adequate mechanised reapers and harvesting machines so that farmers can collect their crops from field quickly due to shortages of field workers, he suggested.

According to Kabir, “none of the countries will help Bangladesh ignoring the interest of their own citizens. So, the departments have to make preparations for Aus and Aman seasons and other agricultural products from now. Besides, the departments concerned will have to ensure government-declared incentives reach the farmers without irregularities and delay.”

He also hoped that if the pandemic situation of virus is lessened within 2-3 months and there will be no threat food shortages in the country.       

However, the government has taken various steps to preserve seeds of wheat, rice, potato and oil seeds across the country.
“We have set a target to preserve 60,000-62,000 tonnes of Boro seed this season. Besides, we have already distributed 3080 tonnes Aus seeds across the country. We will supply 20,000-21000 tonnes of Aman seeds,” Md. Nurnabi Sardar, Managing Director (Seed and Horticulture) of Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) told this correspondent.

The remaining demands for seeds are met by different private companies and farmers themselves, he said in reply to a query.