The government will provide onion farmers with free seeds and fertilisers from next season to attain self-sufficiency in production and to reduce import dependency.
The agri-subsidy scheme in seeds and fertilisers will cover 50,000 farmers in the country's major onion producing districts such as Faridpur, Bogura and Kushtia from the upcoming February-March season.
Each onion grower will get free onion seeds, muriate of potash (MOP) and diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilisers for cultivating the bulb on 1 bigha (0.33 acre) of land. The assistance will continue for the next four years.
The government wants to be self-sufficient in onion production by that time.
The finance ministry on Monday approved a subsidy of Tk25.16 crore for the next season in this regard. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) will purchase the onion seeds and fertilisers with the money and distribute them among farmers.
Each onion farmer will get 750 grams of seeds, 20kg of DAP and 10kg of MOP fertiliser for cultivation of the cooking essential.
Apart from onions, the government has also decided to provide Boro paddy growers with Tk76 crore subsidy next season.
The agriculture ministry fears that Aman paddy production could drop 2.5 lakh tonnes in this season due to several floodings in the country. To counteract the loss, the government will provide free hybrid paddy seeds and saplings to nearly 15 lakh farmers at a cost of Tk76 lakh in the next Boro season.
As a pilot of cent percent farm mechanisation, one union of every district is being brought under homogeneous paddy cultivation.
"The government has never subsidised onion and paddy farming before," according to agriculture ministry officials, who said the country has had a bitter experience with onions this year as neighbouring India had abruptly banned onion exports.
The government has come up with the initiatives to avert such situations in future and to ensure food security during the pandemic-led crisis.
Bangladesh had to face trouble over onion supply twice as India banned export of the cooking staple. Subsequently, the price of the bulb in the country hit Tk270 per kg.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had requested India to inform prior to slapping any export ban on essential commodities. Despite this, the neighbouring country this year imposed a ban on onion export without notifying Bangladesh in advance.
The government tried to handle the situation by importing onions from Myanmar, Turkey, China, Egypt and other alternative sources. Meanwhile, the PM asked the agriculture ministry and commerce ministry to reduce import dependency by increasing onion cultivation and storage capacity.
At a meeting last month, Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque and Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi decided to seek additional allocation from the finance ministry to aid onion growers.
Bangladesh consumes 33 lakh tonnes of onions per year. The country's onion production target last year was 25 lakh tonnes.
The additional Secretary in the agriculture ministry, Hasanuzzaman Kallol, said, "The subsidy is expected to help production increase to 28 lakh tonnes this time."
He told The Business Standard that the plan is to raise the production gradually to 35 lakh tonnes in the next four years.
According to the agriculture ministry, onions have been cultivated on 2.38 lakh hectares of land this year, and another 12,000 hectares will be added to that for next year. Land for onion cultivation will gradually increase in the next four years as a result of government support.
15 lakh farmers to get free Boro seeds
The agriculture ministry wants to increase Boro production as it is concerned over Aman yield hit hard by multiple flooding this year. For that reason, the DAE will provide free paddy seeds and saplings to farmers to increase the production of high-yield hybrid paddy in the Boro season.
Each farmer will get 2kg seeds worth Tk500 for one bigha of land. The government will spend Tk76.40 crore to boost paddy production.
"The target for paddy production this year was set at 2.3 crore tonnes. But Aman production may fall 2.5 lakh tonnes than the target owing to multiple flooding. We are going to subsidise hybrid paddy seeds in the Boro season for the first time to recover the Aman production loss," Hasanuzzaman Kallol told TBS.
He said the target for Boro cultivation has been set at 48.4 lakh hectares of land this year. Of this, hybrid cultivation will cover 11 lakh hectares of land. The government will provide free seeds to the farmers who will cultivate hybrid high-yield paddy on around 2 lakh hectares of land.
The additional secretary said that the authorities are bringing one union from each district under homogeneous paddy cultivation.
"At those unions, farm mechanisation will take care of everything from paddy sowing to harvesting. Farmers will sow the same variety, and the crop will mature and be harvested at the same time too," he said, adding this would increase paddy production.