The agriculture sector – largest in Bangladesh considering its share of employment – will play a crucial part in the post-outbreak economic recovery.
However, the harvest season of Boro rice – for which about 60 percent of the country's total cultivated land is allocated – coincided with the outbreak.
So the Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) conducted a rapid survey on 2,834 Boro farmers.
BIGD Senior Research Fellow Dr Narayan Das presented the study findings at a webinar yesterday.
The study was conducted through a nationwide phone survey.
Its purpose was to understand the Covid-19 effect on production, cost and profit of Boro farmers to analyse the challenges they faced and to recommend appropriate measures to support them.
The survey respondents reported facing many challenges during the outbreak including labour shortage, transport disruption, and financial constraint.
Although Boro yield this year is comparable to the one of the last year, the farmers experienced a 7 percent loss in production compared to the normal times.
They also experienced a 13 percent rise in production cost and a 17 percent increase in labour cost.
Ninety-nine percent of the surveyed farmers had to sell paddy below the government-mandated price of Tk1,040 per maund. So their expected profit dropped by 40 percent.
Nationally, it translates to a loss of 4.82 crore maunds – considering the expected Boro production – which amounts to approximately Tk3,687 crore.
On average, the surveyed farmers sold paddy at Tk765 per maund, Dr Narayan said.
"So we need to draw the attention of policymakers to ensure that the farmers get a fair price."
BIGD Executive Director Dr Imran Matin said, "We should also focus on setting up an efficient delivery mechanism for the government's credit programme for agriculture. A lot of work needs to be done here. And this area needs to be addressed very quickly to tackle the last-mile delivery challenges for support mechanisms."
Professor Emeritus MA Sattar Mandal, former vice-chancellor of the Bangladesh Agricultural University, ACI Seed Business Director Sudhir Chandra Nath, Agriculture Secretary Md Nasiruzzaman and former cabinet secretary and also a BIGDs Senior Advisor M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan were also present at the discussion as panellists.