Farmers have demanded a special fund in the upcoming national budget as a cushion against natural calamities and incidents like shutdowns and transport strikes.
Political unrest badly affected crop sales in the last couple of years. Hundreds of farmers who took bank loans to finance their crop production had to face legal complexities.
They need government support to break free from the credit rut and the special fund will help them receive agriculture credit at simple interest rates.
The farmers’ demands came through a three-month dialogue organised by Hridoye Mati O Manush, a TV programme of Channel i. Shykh Seraj, director and chief of news of the private TV station, is the host of the popular show.
The dialogue was hosted in five districts and attended by around 22,000 farmers.
Organisers prepared a set of 56 recommendations made by farmers at the dialogue; these will be submitted to the finance minister for consideration in the upcoming national budget.
Of the recommendations, 20 were for agriculture, 12 for the poultry industry, 13 for fisheries and 11 for the livestock and dairy industry.
According to the proposals, the government should form a ‘price commission’ to set the selling prices of major agri-products at the farm level.
At present, the government sets the prices of rice and wheat, but the system should be introduced for jute, potato, maize, spices and lentils as well, farmers said.
There should be a match between local demand, marketing and import of high cost agri-products, including fruits and spices, as local farmers are facing an uneven competition due to the open import policy.
The farmers have demanded that import of agri-products during the harvest season be suspended, so that they receive fair prices for their produce.
Farmers have also called for the implementation of ‘crop insurance’ to protect them from losses caused by natural disasters and use of adulterated seeds; this is the fifth year that farmers have placed this demand.
Although a pilot project on crop insurance through state-owned Sadharan Bima Corporation is being operated, no visible outcome is yet to be seen.
Crop insurance exists in many countries, including neighbouring India, where three types of crop insurance are in practice.
Farmers also sought introduction of cooperatives in the agriculture sector, reduction of dependency on imported seeds and expansion of electricity-run irrigation systems.
The government should launch special funds for agricultural development in char areas, offer budgetary allocation for agriculture research, and take measures to save arable lands, they said.
Poultry farmers have demanded a budgetary allocation of Tk 1,000 crore for those affected by bird flu. The allocation will not only help the poultry farmers revive their operations, but also create jobs, they said.
They sought government intervention, as many multinational companies have operations in the poultry business with permission from Board of Investment.
These companies have entered the country as only vaccine and feed suppliers.
Poultry farmers also urged the government to provide a tax holiday till 2025, credit at simple interest rate, subsidies for one-day old chicks and vaccines. They also called for forming a special commission to save the industry.
According to the proposals, fish farmers sought withdrawal of income tax on fish cultivation and fish fry production.
They also sought easy credit, policy on fishing, local market development, fair prices for the cultivators, facilities for fish exports and introduction of insurance for fish farmers.
Livestock and dairy farmers urged the government to establish milk processing and chilling plants in the dairy farm areas, encourage private sector investment in setting up dairy farms, and reduce livestock feed prices.