Towards self-sufficiency in maize -
- BWMRI has so far released 19 hybrid, 9 composite maize varieties
- The research institute needs more land to invent new varieties, produce seed
- Price of local seeds Tk120-150 per kg and imported ones Tk600-800 per kg
- Local maize seeds yield more crops than foreign seeds
- Maize production has increased from 11.37 lakh tonne in 2009 to 54.2 lakh tonne in 2020
The Bangladesh Wheat and Maize Research Institute (BWMRI) in Dinajpur has so far released 19 hybrid and nine composite maize varieties, significantly enhancing the country's maize production.
Still, the country is heavily dependent on imports to meet its demand for the corn and its seeds.
Scientists at the BWMRI say they are facing difficulties in the process of inventing new varieties of maize suitable for the country due to a shortage of land to run such research.
They say achieving self-sufficiency in food requires the ability to produce enough seeds of hybrid crops. So, it is essential to overcome the shortage of land required for producing new varieties of maize plants and their seeds.
According to the BWMRI, 11.37 lakh tonnes of maize was produced in 1.74 lakh hectares in 2009. In the span of 11 years, the maize production in the country has increased to 54.2 lakh tonnes in 5.54 lakh hectares in 2020.
Despite the increase in production, about 11 lakh tonnes of maize had to be imported in FY2019-20 against the country's demand for 65 lakh tonnes.
Besides, the country needed about 65,000 tonne maize seeds in that fiscal year, but it produced only 400 tonnes. So, the country had to import 64,600 tonne – more than 99% of the demand – of maize seeds in FY2019-20, said sources at the BWMRI.
In its action plan for the next 10 years, the BWMRI has set a target of cultivating maize in 7.31 lakh hectares to produce 76.84 lakh tonnes per year by FY2029-30.
With the introduction of new varieties, the current yield will increase from 9.74 tonnes of maize per hectare to 10.50 tonnes per hectare. Moreover, corn oil, cornflakes, corn milk, baby corn, sweet corn, which are rich in vitamin A and pro-vitamins, will be more common in people's food in the coming days.
However, the scientific officials said they have only 50 acres of land to breed new species of corn. This is not enough for the expansion of the new species to meet the country's demand.
It is necessary to produce 4,000 tonnes of corn seeds, which requires around 200 acres of land, as per the action plan for the next 10 years.
Farmers have said the locally produced maize seeds are much cheaper and they yield more crops than the foreign seeds. But the supply of local seeds is very low.
Local maize seeds cost Tk120-150 per kg, while the imported maize seeds cost Tk600-800 per kg.
Sahidur Islam, a farmer from Nashipur area in Dinajpur, said, "The BWMRI sometimes provides seeds for free and it costs less than the foreign seeds even when we have to buy it."
Ayub Ali, another farmer from the same area, said the local seeds yield more crops than the foreign seeds do, so the farmers make a bigger profit. However, due to the high demand, there is a shortage of these seeds and they have to buy the imported ones.
Asgar Ahmed, scientific officer at the BWMRI, said, "Three locations are needed for research on each variety of maize. Every year new varieties have to be invented because of the changing climate. But we need more space for research to innovate hybrid corns, but cannot find it."
Asgar Ahmed said, "The demand for hybrid maize seeds is increasing every year. About Tk200 crore are transacted every year in this business. We need to import seed to meet the local demand."
"If the space for the research is increased, new varieties can be invented and necessary breeding seeds can be supplied to the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC), so that these varieties can be expanded," he added.
Dr Israil Hossain, director general of BWMRI, said, "Maize is a very promising crop. It will be the crop of survival in the future and will provide more food in the future."
He said, "This research centre has developed seeds of varieties of maize including baby corn, sweet corn, and corn rich in vitamin-A, and pro-vitamin. However, we still have to import corn seeds from abroad. If we get more land, we will be able to produce more maize seeds and supply them at lower prices."
He said, "About 200 acres of government land next to our research institute is privately leased. If that land there, or someplace else, is leased to us, we would be able to supply a portion of the maize seeds needed here."