Seeds of high-yielding Ufshi and hybrid paddy varieties have ushered a new era for farmers who, even a decade ago, had to rely on low-yielding local varieties.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), farmers are using the high-yielding seeds as they have three to four times higher productivity than that of local varieties.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Ufshi seeds were mostly used during Aus, Aman and Boro seasons in Fiscal Year 2019-20.
In the three seasons, farmers across the country have used a total of 1,42,283 tonnes of Ufshi seeds and 15,777 tonnes of hybrid seeds and only 260 tonnes of local paddy seeds.
The local variety refers to what the farmers keep as seeds after harvesting paddy and use them for making seedlings in the next season.
The authorities say at present, the total number of rice varieties invented by Bangladesh Rice Research Institute is 106.
Of them, seven are hybrid varieties while the rest are Ufshi varieties. However, some of these high-yielding varieties are only cultivated in some particular regions.
It is known that the cultivation of Ufshi variety started on a small scale in the sixties.
Back then, it was import-dependent, however, the use of Ufshi went up significantly in the last five to six years.
Sirajuddin Talukder, a farmer at Kapasia upazila in Gazipur, said, "I heard from my father that he grew a Ufshi variety called IR-8 in 1969 in only one bigha of land whereas local varieties were still dominant in most of the land in the region."
"Its yield is 4-5 times higher than that of local variety. That is why we are now mostly cultivating Ufshi."
According to the DAE, BR-28 and BR-29 varieties under the Ufshi category are being most cultivated in the country during the ongoing Boro season. Both varieties of rice look medium thin and white.
The BRRI said BR-28 gives five and a half to six tonnes of yield per hectare while BR-29 fetches more than seven tonnes of yield per hectare. Besides, BR-58, BR-50 and BR-67 are also being cultivated all over the country.
BRRI Director General Md Shahjahan Kabir told The Business Standard Ufshi has taken the centre stage at present and these varieties are their invention. About 80% of the paddy seeds used by the farmers are invented by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute.
"The farmers are using these varieties very much as they provide several times more yield," said the director.
Hybrid seeds are imported from several countries including India and China, but Ufshi seeds are being supplied by the government and non-government organisations, said Md Shahjahan.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, private seed producers have provided the farmers with 17% of the Ufshi and 100% of hybrid varieties for Aus cultivation in Fiscal Year 2019-20.
Besides, 26.28% Ufshi and 99% hybrid seeds have been provided for Aman cultivation and 82.96% Ufshi and 100% hybrid seeds for Boro cultivation by non-government organisations.
Lal Teer Seed Limited General Manager MA Rashid told TBS, "Non-government organisations are not lagging behind when it comes to seed supply to the farmers because the cultivators have now become accustomed to using Ufshi seeds as well as hybrid seeds."
He said the government and non-government organisations are also conducting research in the production of hybrid seeds.
DAE Director General Asadullah told TBS, "Even though the amount of our land has decreased, we are giving importance to increase production because the number of consumers is growing day by day. That is why there is no alternative to high-yielding varieties."
"We have become self-sufficient in rice production due to the widespread use of hybrid varieties. Research is constantly being done for the sake of innovation and use of high-yielding varieties," he added.