31 March: DHAKA - A silent revolution has taken place in the agriculture sector in northern Bangladesh during the past two decades with significant increase in production bringing a positive change to life of farmers.
Despite further bright prospects, the agriculture sector is now facing a real threat due to unilateral withdrawal of waters of the common rivers in the upstream by the neighbouring country that leads the sector to an uncertainty as availability of adequate waters for irrigation has seriously been hampered now.
Officials and experts said more comprehensive steps could be undertaken for further boost to the lifeline of the national economy ensuring just share of the common river waters.
Presently, all the rivers except the dying Brahmaputra and the Padma have dried up completely affecting irrigation, ecology, bio-diversity, environment and climatic pattern in the region.
Talking to BSS, agriculture experts suggested setting up of agro-based industries and export processing zones (EPZs), development of potential market networks, further extension supports for entrepreneurs and ensuring fair prices of agri- produce to reap more benefit from this sector in future.
They said the farmers in the region are now more efficiently carrying out their activities from nurturing plants to harvesting crops in the agriculture sector every year. The North-West Crop Diversification Project (NCDP) among other programmes undertaken by the government is playing an important role in the process.
According to officials of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), there are two agri-zones, each with eight districts under Rajshahi and Rangpur regions.
About 1.5 crore people with 13.63 lakh hectares of cultivable land produced 39.66 lakh tonnes of rice and wheat in 2002-'03, 42.53 lakh tonnes in 2003-'04 and 41.86 tonnes in 2004- '05 in Rangpur zone alone.
They said the surplus production of only rice and wheat stood at 14.33 lakh tonnes in 2002-'03, 16.55 lakh tonnes in 2003-'04 and 15.25 lakh tonnes in 2004-'05 in Rangpur zone. In addition, a huge quantity of potatoes, vegetables, fruits, jute, pulses, spices, maize and other high valued crops are being produced in the region every year.
The officials said 13.23 lakh tonnes of potatoes were produced in 2002-'03, 15.12 lakh tonnes in 2003-'04 and 18.61 lakh tonnes in 2004-'05 while 1.80 lakh tonnes of bananas were produced in 2002-'03, 1.73 lakh tonnes in 2003-'04 and 1.83 lakh tonnes in 2004-'05 in the region.
Besides, 61,056 tonnes of maize were produced in 2002-'03, 1,44,000 tonnes in 2003-'04 and 2,18,000 tonnes in 2004-'05 in Rangpur zone, the officials said.
"A revolutionary success has been achieved in farming of maize, fruits, vegetables and other high valued crops under the NCDP in the region with a huge prospects for exporting these produces," they said.
An expert said a huge maize production in the region has created an opportunity to set up maize-based industries to produce cholesterol-free corn oil, corn flex, starch for the garments sector and poultry feed.
"We are now importing starch extracted from maize worth Taka 400 crore per year for the garment sector," he said.
But, all these prospects and possibilities will yield nothing if the region do not get due and just share of the common river waters at the earliest possible time," the experts said.