With official food grain stock dipping to its lowest in recent years, the government has pinned hopes on the country's major crop, Boro, which is approaching the peak harvest time.
But a prolonged drought and heatwave in some areas have left farmers less optimistic about a better harvest this year.
Moreover, no rain for nearly six months, more specifically in the prime irrigation period of February and March, has added to the woes, increasing the production cost due to continuous extraction of groundwater for irrigation, causing worry to farmers about the cost recovery.
An environmental cost is also there as groundwater levels in various parts of the country have dropped alarmingly due to heatwave and lack of rainfall. There was not enough water in some areas for this year's Boro cultivation.
Boro farmers and agriculture officials said in some areas, due to the severe drought, farmers had to count irrigation costs one and a half to two times more than that of the usual. Due to the drought, different regions needed 20% to 50% additional irrigation this year, which ultimately increased the production cost significantly.
But even with increased irrigation, farmers could not maintain normal Boro production this year. Analysing the information given by farmers, this year's Boro production has decreased by 15% to 25%.
Manunur Rashid, a farmer from Saramangla in Godagari, Rajshahi, cultivated Boro on six bighas of land. Last year, his highest irrigation cost was Tk1,500 per bigha, which this year increased to Tk2,200. And now, even after increasing the irrigation cost by 46%, the yield has been lower than the previous year.
Afzal Miah, a sharecropper of Shibganj upazila in Bogura, is facing the same fate. Afzal had to spend 50% more on irrigation this season compared to last year. But his expectation of a yield of 25-30 maunds of paddy has been dealt with a blow of 20 maunds.
According to the Department of Agricultural Marketing, the production cost per kg of paddy is Tk26.01 and that of rice is Tk38.96. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) has fixed the production cost of paddy at Tk26.19 and rice at Tk38.53; the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute has fixed the price of paddy at Tk25.28 and rice at Tk37.07 while the Ministry of Agriculture fixed the costs at Tk27 and Tk39.
Last year, the production cost of Boro was less than Tk26 and that of rice was below Tk35.
According to the DAE, this season Boro has been planted on 48,83,760 hectares of land across the country. In more than 30 districts, paddy of 63,000 hectares of land has been affected by the impact of the recent heat shock.
Sources concerned said crop loss is more than the agriculture ministry's estimation of 1 lakh tonnes.
If the prolonged drought reduces production by 15% to 25%, it will create a big deficit in the total production of food.
However, Md Asadullah, director of the DAE, claimed that the drought and heatwave had "a small effect" on production and there is no risk of an overall deficit.
It is learned that jute cultivation also has been affected this year. Rain-based jute cultivation has been irrigated with shallow engines this year due to drought. Even with extra irrigation farmers are not able to save jute.
According to the jute farmers of Faridpur, due to intense heat and drought, fracture has emerged on the jute fields in different parts of the district.
Jute trees are drying up under the scorching heat of the sun of Baisakh, the first month of Bangla calendar, raising fears among the farmers about the prospect 0of harvest.
On the other hand, the water level has dropped due to continuous intense heat. Due to frequent irrigation of jute land, production cost is increasing, besides the farmers are not being able to clear the weeds due to severe drought. The farmers fear that this year's jute production target will not be achieved.
According to the district DAE, the total jute cultivation target in the district this year is on 86,206 hectares of land. So far, farmers have cultivated jute on 83,455 hectares of land.
Naser Hossain, a farmer from Gotri Union in Saltha upazila in Faridpur, said they had never seen such a drought before.
Irrigation has to be done frequently as there is no rain. Even after such continuous irrigation, jute is not growing. As the growth of jute is not fast, the amount of weeds in the land is increasing. All in all, the cost of production has doubled with no guarantee of yield.
Md Hazrat Ali, deputy director of DAE in the district, said, "There has been no rain in Faridpur since last monsoon. Farmers have planted jute on the land even though it was dry. Many are irrigating jute lands under the scorching heat of the hot sun.
This is increasing the cost of farmers. If it does not rain at the moment, even if jute is planted on a lot of land, the jute tree will not grow anymore.
According to the DAE, the maximum temperature in Faridpur on 25 and 26 March was 40 degrees Celsius. According to the Water Development Board, on an average, rainfall in the district in April is 164.8mm; but this year it was only 11mm.
After causing severe damage to boro paddy, this year's drought is now damaging seasonal fruits like mango, jackfruit and litchi. The shoots are falling off the tree just before they dry up and mature. Gardeners and agriculture officials in Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Satkhira and other districts say 5% to 6% of mangoes and litchis have fallen off the trees so far, due to lack of rain.
Chapainawabganj Agriculture Officer Dr Bimal Kumar Pramanik said the number of fallen fruits in storms is almost double this year than last year. This will affect the overall production.
Kartik Chandra Chakraborty, agronomist and director of the DAE's Agricultural Information Service, said there were reports of problems such as immature fruit ripening and shrinking of fruit. Jute and maize production have also been affected.
Ground water level goes down due to drought
According to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, the country's temperature started rising in the beginning of March.
But expected rainfall in different districts in March and April did not occur. As a result, Boro paddy has to be irrigated with extra water. For this reason, the water level in different regions has gone down.
In Bangladesh, the normal maximum temperature in April remains between 31.2 to 35.7 degrees Celsius. However, on 25 April, the highest temperature rose to 41.2 degrees Celsius in Jashore, the highest in six years.
According to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, the average rainfall for the month was 54.4mm, but in March, the country received 80% less rainfall. The situation in Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal and Chattogram is even worse. The rainfall in those divisions was 98%-99.8% less than normal in that month of March.
Meanwhile, the situation in April is also terrible. The normal average rainfall in April is 130mm, but as of 29 April, no rainfall had been recorded at seven of the 58 stations, according to the FFWC. Only seven stations received half the normal rainfall. The 22 stations received at least 90% less rain than usual.
The amount of groundwater consumed due to lack of normal rainfall is no longer being refilled. As a result, the groundwater level is falling below normal level. On the other hand, due to the lack of rainfall, there is a shortage of water in rivers and surface water bodies, said officials of the Public Health Engineering Department in different districts.
Our Bogura correspondent said usually water could be found in a tube well 65 feet below the ground at Bhimpur village of Naogaon Sadar. But now people have to collect drinking water from more than 90 feet below the ground.
Mahmud Alam, executive engineer of the Naogaon Public Health Engineering Department, said the water level in different parts of the district has dropped by 6-7 feet due to the drought. Besides, the water level is going down by 6-7 inches on an average every year.
Md Arifuzzaman Bhuiyan, executive engineer of the Water Development Board, said the low flow of water in various rivers of the country including Teesta, Manu and Padma is not enough for irrigation. As a result, we have to depend on groundwater for irrigation.
M Zakir Hossain, climate expert and honorary executive director of Change Initiative, said that in the last 20-30 years, the number of concrete structures in Bangladesh has increased manifold. The use of vehicles, ACs and other electronics devices has increased a lot. These are emitting a lot of heat; besides the forest area has been reduced. Due to these, the temperature is getting higher.
He said, "Water vapor is low as the flow of water in the river has decreased; at the same time, there is a lack of trees needed for rain. These issues are responsible for the drought. It has been newly observed that the amount of methane gas in Bangladesh is heating the atmosphere 80 times more than methane carbon dioxide."
TBS correspondents in Faridpur, Bogura, Rajshahi, Khagrachhari, Dinajpur and Cumilla assisted in preparing the report.