The government is going to invest $2.9 billion over the next five years on mechanised and climate-smart agriculture to grow more food, achieve nutrition security and reduce the cost of farming.
The World Bank (WB) has initially agreed to lend $500 million towards implementing the government's vision in the eighth five-year plan and the global lender has drafted a concept paper for the government's Economic Relations Department (ERD).
Additional Secretary (planning) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Md Abdur Rauf, told The Business Standard, "The World Bank has shown interest in lending for the proposed project and the Department of Agricultural Extension has also started work on the Development Project Proposal (DPP)."
He also said the project will be implemented following the approval of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec), if the government considers it profitable.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, a plan of action for the 2021-25 period was prepared last year under the National Agricultural Policy. As per the government's 8th five-year plan estimates, the project is supposed to cost $2.9 billion.
The World Bank plans to present the project loan proposal to its board in March of next year. The money would be disbursed from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank subsidiary that provides low-cost concessional loans.
According to the concept paper, food imports in Bangladesh have tripled in the last 10 years due to population growth. By 2031, the country's population will increase by about another three crore. A sustainable and safe food supply has become a challenge for the country due to natural disasters and an increasing population.
A number of factors have become matters of major concern, the document says. Bangladesh faces a future where a growing population, rapid urbanisation, declining arable land and increasing risks to agricultural production due to climate change will put huge pressure on reliable food supply. Hence, the issue of increasing food production is being given top priority in the proposed project.
"This will require strong measures to increase climate resilient productivity on the one hand and increasing input use efficiency on the other," the WB document states.
The project will focus on increasing agricultural production, with the use of technology and mechanisation in uncultivated lands across the country, emphasising climate-smart agriculture in char and hilly areas. The project will also ensure quality seeds, loans, and agricultural support such as storage materials for farmers.
In addition to increasing food production, the World Bank has suggested improving the quality of life of farmers and entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector by increasing their income.
To this end, initiatives will be taken to modernise the agricultural market to reduce the cost of farming and post-harvest losses.
The World Bank has also emphasised increasing the production of high value and exportable crops to create a strong value chain in agriculture.
It proposes to increase the production of safe crops and high yielding varieties of paddy and oil crops through the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). The money will also be spent on increasing the production of fruits and vegetables to create the availability of nutritious food.
"Rice production has become less profitable in Bangladesh due to a significant increase in labour wages and irrigation costs, whereas prices of other food commodities have been steadily fetching higher prices. Farmers make $56 per hectare from rice cultivation, while the returns can be over $300 per hectare from other crops, and over $600 from fruits and vegetable production," the WB document reports.
It has also formulated an action plan to increase the participation of the private sector in the processing of agricultural products and to attract trained youth to innovation-based agriculture.
The World Bank has further emphasised the need for soil, water, and biodiversity management to increase agricultural production. Hence, the need for quality investment in agricultural research has also been mentioned.
The project will be jointly implemented by the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC), Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC).a