Farmers feel pinch of a draught-like situation

There has been a draught-like-situation across much of the country because of lower than usual rainfall in this peak rainy season, posing a serious threat to Aman cultivation, according to a government report.
   The country might face a full-fledged draught first time in eight years if the prevailing hot spell without sufficient rain continues in the remaining period the monsoon season, cautioned the report.
   Experts described ‘erratic rainfall’ as a ‘bad phenomenon’. They warned that farmers were likely to shift from producing rice to cash corps cultivation as production of rice became expensive in tally with its market price.
   The fortnightly report of Food Planning and Monitoring Unit (FPMU) of the food and disaster management ministry said the country experienced 44 per cent less rainfall until July 13 of the current rainy season compared to the last season’s rainfall.
   However, Atiq A Rahman, a member of International Panel of Climate Change, said there was 69 per cent shortage of rainfall in the first month of the rainy season. ‘It is a huge short fall,’ he told New Age.
   ‘The total rainfall during the season may remain equal to the rainfall in the previous year. But if farmers do not get rain at the right time they will not get the expected benefit,’ he said. ‘They have been saying special prayers at different places of the country. It is a manifestation of their frustration.’
   Describing the pattern as ‘erratic rainfall’, he said ‘It is a fallout of climate change. It fits with the behaviour to climate change.’
   Mahbub Hossein, a leading economist who visited Pabna, Kushtia and Chuadanga districts early last week, described ‘shortage of rainfall as a bad phenomenon.’
   He said enterprising farmers have transplanted Aman as there was heavy rain for few days in June. ‘But traditional farmers have been waiting for heavy downpour in the rainy season as Aman transplantation requires huge water to make the field muddy.
   ‘Farmers will be able to transplant Aman if there is sufficient rain in next three weeks. But they may not wait for three weeks if the downpour does not start soon,’ Mahbub, also executive director of BRAC, said.
   He said jute farmers have become frustrated as they have hardly got adequate waters in canals and low lands for retting (soaking) jute. ‘This year they have cultivated huge jute as its price is good and price of rice is low.’
   He said there is a risk that farmers may prefer to shift to cash crops like vegetables due to high cost of rice farming and low price of rice in the market.
   There was no rainfall in Nilphamari, Dinajpur and Rangpur districts in the last two to three weeks, leaving the soil parched, cracked and unsuitable for tilling or planting, while seedlings already planted or prepared for planting are withering, according to
   Subhash Chandra Roy, a farmer of Biral Upazila in Dinajpur, said he usually finished Aman plantation by the end of Ashar, the first month of the rainy season.
   But this year, with Sraban, the second month of the rainy season already started, he said he could not even prepare the soil for planting.
   The government report added that the prevailing weather is posing serious threat to Aman, the second largest staple of the country after Boro.
   Against the backdrop of such situation, the food and disaster management ministry has already asked the ministries including agricultural ministry to arrange necessary measures for irrigation, said FMPU director general Ruhul Amin.
   The country last time faced such a draught-like situation 1991, added the FMPU DG.
   Dr. Uttam Deb, agricultural expert of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said measure like supplementary irrigation would be a good step on the part of government as a pre-cautionary measure.
   Meteorologist Abdur Rahman, however, said there is a possibility of downpour in next two or three days.
   But officials of the food and disaster management ministry ruled out any adverse situation in case of a setback in Aman production as the country has sufficient buffer stock.
   Currently, there is a stock of 1.2 million tons of rice and the ministry is gong to procure 0.5 million tons of wheat.

Source: The Daily New Age, 20 July 2009


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