Agriculture Minister Md Abdur Razzaque has directed officials of the agriculture department to form a team and take necessary steps to identify the lands left unused in Sylhet and coastal areas to bring them under cultivation.
He came up with the directive on Sunday at a virtual meeting on the evaluation of the Annual Development Programme (ADP) implementation progress at the Secretariat. Senior Secretary to the agriculture ministry Md Mesbahul Islam moderated the meeting.
Stressing the importance of rice production, the minister said rice is the main food of Bangladesh, and the country is now self-sufficient in food.
"The production of vegetables, potato, maze, wheat, and fruits has increased significantly. But the people consider sufficiency in rice production the indicator of food self-sufficiency."
The minister asked the agriculture officials to increase their involvement in field work instead of only carrying out the routine activities at the ministry.
Razzaq said there are still many uncultivated fallow lands in Sylhet and coastal areas.
"Especially in Sylhet region, the amount of uncultivated lands and how much of them can be brought under cultivation has to be studied," he said.
He said officials have to be always on alert and keep an eye on the market alongside monitoring field conditions and production. "On top of this, they have to be aware of the possible impacts of production on the market."
The minister asked project directors to inform local public representatives about the ongoing project activities. "Local representatives have to be included in project work."
Mesbahul said if the rice market is stable, it is not necessary to just look at the production figures and the demand for rice in the country has to be taken into consideration as well.
"There are one million Rohingya refugees in the country. Many expatriates have returned during the pandemic. Moreover, rice is also being used in animal feed. These issues need to be taken into consideration."
The meeting was informed that Tk2,400 crore had been allocated for 68 projects under the agriculture ministry in the 2020-21 financial year, and until January, their implementation progress was 36% while the average national progress was 28.45%.
Project officials, including senior officials of the ministry and heads of the organisations, were present at the meeting.