The government's Tk3,000 crore farm mechanisation project, running for 12 years, to provide farmers with agro equipment at subsidised rates has yielded little outcome as farmers are still incapable of bearing their share of the cost of the "expensive" machinery, according to DAE data.
Because the farm mechanisation programme has not picked up momentum, the use of machinery has not increased much in various activities such as planting and harvesting.
According to the data, reaper machines are currently being used on only 2% of land while the use of machines for fertiliser application, and seeding and planting are limited to 3% and 2% of land, respectively.
The government is providing farmers up to 50% subsidies (70% in case of the haor region) on purchasing prices of machinery such as combined harvesters, reapers, transplanters, etc under the project that started in 2010, aiming to increase the use of machinery at various stages of farming for the modernisation of agriculture.
But the use of machinery has increased only a few activities such as threshing, pesticides spraying and land preparation, Benojir Alam, director general of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), told a two-day workshop on "Agricultural Mechanisation in Bangladesh: The Future" that started on Monday.
Bangladesh Agriculture University has organised the programme in collaboration with USAID funded Feed the Future Bangladesh Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia- Mechanisation and Extension Activity (CSISA-MEA) at Pan Pacific Sonargaon in the capital.
Farmers use machines for 78% of threshing, 95% of pesticide spraying, and 98% for land preparation, Benojir Alam said.
At the programme, Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque said farmers still cannot afford the machinery although the government is providing 50% to 70% subsidy for agricultural mechanisation.
He suggested developing local industries to manufacture these gears to bring down the price at a tolerable level.
"We are working to expand commercial agriculture for which agricultural mechanisation is very important," he said.
The minister also suggested developing skilled manpower for production, repairing, and maintenance of agriculture apparatuses.
"The work of producing agricultural machinery within the purchasing capacity of the farmers and as per their demand is going on aiming to increase the use of equipment in agriculture along with setting up of local workshops for these machines," he said.
Speakers at the workshop said there is a demand for 50,000 power tillers in the country. But only 3,000 power tillers are manufactured locally whereas the rest of the amount is imported.
Shahjahan Kabir, director general of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI,) said the high price of the raw materials is a barrier to manufacturing agricultural machinery locally.