A Tk18.24 crore project to create new buffalo breeds has failed spectacularly, as no new breed could be created two years since the project's completion.
Two exhibition farms – one in Raipur upazila of Lakshmipur and the other in Madaripur's Rajoir upazila – were set up as part of the project.
At present, in each farm, Tk35,850 is spent on granular feed, hay and wages of workers every day but only Tk13,500 is earned through sales of milk, resulting in a daily loss of Tk22,350.
The two farms thus have been incurring a loss of Tk13.41 lakh every month, which is being paid from the own fund of Bangladesh Milk Producers' Cooperative Union Limited (Milk Vita), the implementing agency of the project.
The project was aimed at increasing the rearing of buffaloes as buffalo milk contains more cream. It would inspire farmers into going for buffalo farming as the venture promises high profits.
The objective was to create new buffalo breeds through crossbreeding with high-quality Indian Murrah buffaloes.
But, the project had some major shortcomings.
Milk Vita launched the "Establishment of Buffalo Breeding Station for Enhancing Milk Production" project in July 2013 at a cost of Tk16.55 crore and December 2015 was set as its deadline.
After the tenure of the project was extended twice, it was finally finished in December 2017 at a cost of Tk18.24 crore – a 10 percent increase over the original estimates – according to a report prepared by the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED).
An IMED field visit revealed that the target of the project had not been achieved as no publicity was carried out among farmers on raising awareness about rearing of buffaloes.
The IMED report notes that there has been no improvement in local buffalo breeds as they have not been cross-bred with high-quality, milk-producing buffaloes.
Local people simply do not have any idea of the project or the cross-breeding factor. The practice of rearing buffaloes is low even in the union adjacent to where the project farms were set up.
Although 200 Murrah buffaloes, including calves, were to be brought from India, they finally arrived in five stages in 2018 – a year after the project was completed.
In the project proposal, the Rural Development and Cooperatives Division said there were about 12 lakh buffaloes at present in the country, with most of them being reared in remote char areas.
Each buffalo yields only one to two litres of milk, and only four percent of the total milk supply comes from buffaloes.
But in neighbouring India, 53 percent of the milk supply comes from buffaloes, while it is 67 percent in Pakistan and 71 percent in Nepal.
The IMED sent the report to the Rural Development and Cooperatives Division and Milk Vita.
IMED sources said the project included setting up a bull station for Murrah buffaloes imported from India and encouraging farmers to rear high-quality buffaloes by setting up exhibition farms of milking Murrah buffaloes.
Excess buffalo calves born in the breeding farms were supposed to be sold at low cost among cooperative farmers. The project was also expected to create profitable employment through a commercial breeding of buffaloes.
The IMED has advised that the management of the two farms undergo improvement.
IMED Secretary Abul Mansur Md Faizullah said the project had been inspected as part of regular activities to evaluate completed projects.
He hoped that the agency would take necessary steps for overcoming the weaknesses.
What the project director says
Project Director Pretam Kumar Das agreed that there were no buffaloes in the vicinity where the exhibition farm had been set up in Lakshmipur.
"But buffaloes are reared in the remote areas of the district where setting up a farm is not possible due to a lack of communication facilities," he said.
"As farms set up with the aim of improving buffalo breeds are not run commercially, losses are normal for them. The two farms under this project are no exception," he explained.
Pretam Das said the cooperative farmers were actually incurring losses, which were being met from the Milk Vita fund.
He added that there were plans to make up for the loss by providing farmers with calves from the farms.
New project to increase buffalo breeding
The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock has taken up a separate project at a cost of Tk75 crore to increase milk production by increasing buffalo breeding.
Under the project, attempts will be made to identify major diseases of buffaloes as well as devise a disease control model and treatment methods.
The project was recently approved by the National Economic Council.
Under the project, training will be imparted to 2,000 farmers at Savar in Dhaka, Godagari in Rajshahi, Ishwardi in Pabna, Madarganj in Jamalpur, Anwara in Chattogram, Companyganj in Noakhali, Ramgati in Lakshmipur, Charfesson in Bhola, Bauphal in Patuakhali, Fenchuganj in Sylhet, Badarganj in Rangpur and Kaliganj in Lalmonirhat.