NILRATAN HALDER |
Mar 03, 2022 10:26:08 p.m.
Concluded last Wednesday, March 2, the sixth edition of the three-day National Vegetable Fair adopted a most appropriate slogan, “Nirapad shabji chas, shyastha pushti baro mas (safe vegetable growing, healthy eating throughout the year). Indeed, the country has achieved the unique feat of growing vegetables seven times more than 12 years ago and, thanks to this, it has secured the third position in the production of this particular type of food. plants all over the world. , this is an enviable achievement.
Now is the time, as Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaq said at the inauguration of the vegetable fair, to focus on food security. There must be a transition from food security to its next level of food security. The Minister clarified this point by referring to the country’s achievement of self-sufficiency in the production of grains or cereals, but unless it is complemented by a yield of nutritious vegetables and fruits, healthy growth of the population cannot be assured. This is why the agricultural policy has been adapted to the cultivation of vegetables and fruits, emphasizing the diversification of crops.
The farmers are quick to take on any challenge and they have made their mark by growing a good number of exotic vegetables and fruits. Their motivation was largely supported by the return of these new products. Some enterprising farmers have also succeeded in growing fruits, vegetables and even flowers generally considered unsuitable for cultivation in the climate of this country. The latest example is the successful cultivation of tulips.
Bell pepper, broccoli, strawberry and dragon fruit were once unknown to farmers here, but their availability and reasonable prices, at least in the city’s kitchen market, are proof that growing these vegetables and exotic fruits is increasing. Highly nutritious and antioxidant, these crops have added dietary value to the dishes of those who can afford them.
When affordability is in question, the gap between rich and poor has acted as a barrier to improving food quality as well as health and hygiene. The Covid-19 pandemic has set the country back several years in terms of closing the gap. As the pandemic begins to wane, runaway prices for food—grains and other types—and other necessities have dealt a severe blow to low-income people. Although not imported, vegetables, even in winter when their supply is several times greater than at any time of the year, have continued to remain very expensive. Only the potato, not the leafy crops, became extremely cheap to the frustration of the farmers.
In such a volatile market, the issue of food safety is bound to become a victim. When a significant proportion of the population cannot afford the bare minimum of food, the campaign for safe consumables surely suffers. The country’s regression on the road to food security must, however, be taken seriously. It is important to ensure that producers get reasonable rewards for their time, energy and labor and that the general mass also gets their food—both staples and vegetables/fruits—at affordable prices. .
Unfortunately, it is not the case. Farmers and consumers are deprived of a fair pricing system through no fault of their own, but for market manipulation by trade syndicates, middlemen or middlemen and the involvement of extortionists.
The government has repeatedly asked traders not to opt for price increases through artificial crises. But each time, such requests have fallen on deaf ears. The price difference at the farm level and at the consumer level is excruciatingly high — at the time of 50-60 Tk per kilogram. It is therefore pragmatic to opt for measures that neutralize the commercial intrigues resorted to by traders. Cutting out middlemen, social parasites like extortionists, and supporting transportation of produce for direct supply from farms to the wholesale market can do the trick. For this purpose, the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) can be equipped with a fleet of trucks. These will carry loads of produce for a period of time before ownership of the vehicles can be transferred to farmers’ cooperatives formed for this purpose. If train service is available, at least one vendor compartment can be added to each passenger train to minimize the cost of transportation. Such measures can keep food prices reasonably low while ensuring sufficient profit for farmers.
When this happens, the country’s food distribution among its population will be more or less rational. This, in turn, will create the right environment to direct the focus on food safety. Fertilizers and pesticides are applied indiscriminately to agricultural fields and, in the case of vegetables, the time interval between pesticide application and harvest is often much shorter than the recommended period. The involvement of agricultural extension agents in the field is crucial in this task. The Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM) may consider deploying such field officers whose job would be, in conjunction with extension officers, to oversee healthy and hygienic production of vegetables and help farmers collectively benefit from the BRTC transport. In case of exporting mangoes, the farmers have already learned to practice the bagging system. If trained, they will quickly become experts in other modern methods and techniques for growing vegetables and fruits safely.