- Fund size: Tk846 crore
- Total beneficiaries: Around 7 lakh farmers
- Dairy farmers: 4.2 lakh
- Poultry farmers: 2 lakh
- Fish farmers: 76,000
Around seven lakh small and medium farmers in dairy, poultry, and coastal fisheries sectors will receive Tk3,500-22,000 each as a grant to resume their businesses and recover the losses induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The department of livestock and the department of fisheries are providing the grants from a Tk846 crore fund formed by relocating the allocations for two ongoing projects financed by the World Bank.
The grants would be disbursed among the farmers on Wednesday (17 February) at a programme at Osmani Auditorium in the capital. Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim, Planning Minister MA Mannan, and Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque will be present at the event.
Of the total beneficiaries, 4.2 lakh are from the dairy sector, two lakh from poultry, and 76,000 from fisheries.
Abdur Rahim, director of the Livestock and Dairy Development Project (LDDP), said the World Bank had agreed to relocate $96.2 million for the cash incentive programme as Contingent Emergency Response Component (CERC) out of the committed $500 million.
Entrepreneurs in these sectors are happy with the announcement of incentives for marginal farmers for the first time but are disappointed with the amount of assistance.
Leaders of the associations in these sectors said dairy and poultry sectors had incurred losses worth about Tk20,000 crore only due to the reduction in milk, egg, and meat prices.
KH Mahbubul Haque, director of one of the projects named Bangladesh Sustainable Coastal and Marine Fisheries project said, "As most of the regular activities of the two World Bank projects have been postponed, the authorities have decided to spend $12.2 million from the current fiscal year's allocation".
According to officials, most of the grants will be disbursed through mobile financial services.
The LDDP director said, "A large portion of the grants will be transferred through Nagad and bKash. The other portion will be transferred through commercial banks of the recipients choice."
He said the beneficiaries had been identified in consultation with several associations such as Bangladesh Poultry Industries' Central Council, Bangladesh Dairy Industries Association, Bangladesh Feed Industries Association, World's Poultry Science Association (Bangladesh chapter), and Animal Health Companies' Association.
Of the total fund, Tk746 crore will be provided for dairy and poultry sectors.
Small dairy farms with a minimum of two cows will receive Tk10,000 each and medium farms having more than 10 cows will get Tk20,000. Money will be transferred in 466 upazilas of 61 districts.
The authorities have divided poultry farms into four categories depending on the number of birds they have. Large farms will receive a maximum of Tk22,000 each, and about two lakh poultry farmers are eligible for the incentive.
Farms having at least 100 Sonali, broiler or layer chicken and ducks will be eligible for the grant and will receive around Tk3,500 each.
About 76,074 people engaged in fisheries in 75 upazilas of eight coastal districts will receive cash incentives of Tk1,000-18,000 each.
Mahbubul said small shrimp enclosures will receive Tk16,000 each, while medium ones will get Tk18,000 each. Medium-sized pond-based fisheries will receive Tk16,000 each and fisheries with small ponds will get Tk10,000 each.
"Crab, cuchia harvesters in the open wetlands have also been affected by Covid-19. That is why some people engaged in this sector will receive Tk10,000 each. The fisheries sector will be provided with cash incentives of Tk100 crore," he added.
Poultry and dairy sectors were affected badly by the pandemic as the demand for egg, meat, and milk dropped during the general holidays declared by the government to contain the spread of the virus. The fisheries sector also suffered the same disaster during that time.
General Secretary of Khamar Rakkha Jatiya Parishad, Khandaker Md Mohsin said farmers had lost Tk2,800 crore in lost sales during the first wave of the pandemic.
He said many farmers had lost everything and the Tk4,000-5,000 grant would not help them at all.
"This is a pitiful amount of assistance."
Mohsin said corruption in government projects in the poultry and dairy sectors is high, adding that it is a positive decision to help the affected entrepreneurs by relocating money from such projects.
He also said large-scale investment is needed now in the poultry sector.
"Entrepreneurs will get additional benefits if the government provides funds for setting up some common facilities of new technology."
Md Mashiur Rahman, president of the Dairy Association of Bangladesh, said the first wave of the pandemic had caused losses of at least Tk15,000 crore in this sector.
"It took a year for the government to take initiatives to help the affected farmers but the amount to be distributed now is inadequate," he said.
Md Khalilullah, senior vice-president of Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association, said marginal fishermen would benefit a bit from the incentives announced for fishermen in coastal areas.
But he demanded that traders in this sector – if they are not provided cash assistance – be brought under the stimulus package, and cash assistance for exports be raised from 10% to 20%.
According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the total market value of livestock production in the country is Tk46,673 crore while it is Tk82,457 crore for the fisheries sector. The contribution of the two sectors to the GDP is 4.95%.
Size of the industry
According to associations in the poultry and dairy sectors, at least 57 lakh people are employed in about 83,000 registered poultry farms in the country. Investment in these farms tops Tk42,000 crore.
On the other hand, there are 2.5 lakh registered dairy farms. About 1.2 crore people are involved in these farms and the linkage industry. However, there are many unregistered farms in both sectors.
The World Bank said in the background paper of the LDDP project that livestock plays an important role in poverty reduction and shared prosperity. The sector represents about 14% of agricultural GDP but employs around 20% of the labour force full-time and 50% part-time, of which many are women.
Over 70% of rural households are engaged in livestock production, which contributes to a large share of the livelihoods of smallholders and landless farmers.
Dairy is an important economic activity, providing 3.6 million households with supplementary income, added the report.