Agriculture is critical to the growth and stability of Bangladesh’s economy. It accounts for one-third of the country’s GDP and employs two-thirds of the labor force. Apart from the garment manufacturing industry. It is the major source of expert earnings for the country.
As the economy modernizes and develops, it is expected that the share of agricultural output in the gross output of the economy will decline. But in the near future, the sector will continue to be the single largest contributor to the income and employment of the rural population.
But there are some factors affecting agricultural production and all of the factors are discussed below:
Factors affecting agricultural production
The land scarcity in Bangladesh can be seen by looking at the average size of farms. In 1995. 72.7% of farms in Bangladesh were less than 2.5 acres in size and they collectively accounted for only 36.8% of the total arable land.
Another 23.1% of farms were between 2.5 acres in size and accounted for a further 43.4% of the total arable land. Only 4% of farms were over 7.5 acres in size, and they covered 20.7% of ht total land.
In many advanced countries where farming is mechanized, farms of 7.5 acres would count as small farms, but in Bangladesh they count as large farms and only 4% of farms are bigger than this Moreover, in Bangladesh, a farmer owning 7.5 acres of land probably does no town the land in a single plot, but rather as a number of disconnected small plots that may be quite far apart from each other.
All these factors mean that mechanization and large-scale farming are very difficult to organize in Bangladesh.
Finally, it should be remembered that as much as 50% of rural households are functionally landless, which means that they own at most 0.5 acres of land on which they may have a home, but they own no land to farm.
These large numbers of landless families survive by working on the land of others, but most importantly by also engaging in non-agricultural activities in the rural areas including different types of informal service activities, such as puling rickshaws, working in shops, and so on.
Apart from the fragmentation of land, one consequence of very small farms is that farmers are generally poor, and even the owners of relatively large farms in Bangladesh often do not have the resources to investing mechanization, such as use of tractors, power pumps, harvesters, or trucks for transportation of produce to markets. One indicator of this is that in 2000, only 17% of the total land was irrigated with power pumps.
Environmental constraints also affect all aspects of agricultural production, affecting both subsistence/food crops as well as cash/commercial crops.
In Bangladesh, nearly all cultivable land is used for the production of crops. The limited land is regularly subject to both drought and flooding, which affects the overall growth in agriculture.
On an annual basis, the country receives more water that it needs but a large seasonal variation affects the productivity of agriculture. In the monsoon season (May-October) there is an excess supply of water, while in the virtually rainless period (November-April) three is a scarcity.
It is estimated that nearly a third of the total cultivated land is annually flooded by at least 3tf of water. Though such flooding can be useful for monsoon crops, it acts as a constraint on crop production.
A significant proportion of the cultivable land (15%) cannot grow any crops during the monsoon season. Varying flood levels also cause direct damage to crops and the uncertainty of flooding with regard to area, depth, duration, and time of occurrence constrains long-term agricultural development.
Intensive land cultivation all year round is the simplest way of increasing production. This is not possible, however, due to excess flooding during the monsoon and the absence of appropriate irrigation facilities during the dry period.
There is also considerable regional variation in the ecology of Bangladesh that affects agricultural production. The country can be roughly divided into four equal parts based on hydrological differences:
- Northwest (north of the Ganges and West lf Jamuna): The monsoons are shorter with a low dry season rainfall. Additionally, droughts are more likely to occur and there is a scarcity of surface water.
- Northeast (areas between Meghna, Barahmaputra and Jamuan rivers inclosing the Sylhet basin): Here the key issue is flooding, particularly during the monsoon season.
- Southeast and Southwest: This area suffers from both droughts in the dry season and floods during the monsoon season. Both floods and droughts are serious with the floods being tidal in nature.
Overall rainfall ranges from 50 inches per year in much of the northwest and southwest to 200 inches in parts of northeast and southeast. The hydrological conditions crucially determine agricultural land use and cropping patterns thus directly affecting production levels.
The institutional constraints to agricultural growth come from the poor law and order situation in much of rural Bangladesh. Most of the violence in rural Bangladesh is due to disputes over land caused by conflicting claims on the same piece of land.
Land records are not always accurate and there are different records kept in different offices, opening up the possibility of long legal cases that cost a lot and are subject to additional costs due to bribes and corruption. These land disputes mean that owners are never sure of the future of their land ownership and this too can dampen the enthusiasm to invest.
Finally, in a poor country, agricultural infrastructure is necessarily underdeveloped. There are inadequate roads, bridges, irrigating networks and flood control systems. This is a major constraint on agricultural production, particularly given the ecology of Bangladesh.
It is not possible for individual farmers to deal with flooding or the absence of roads or other communication networks to their village, without government funds being available for this infrastructural investment. In the long run, agricultural growth is most seriously constrained by the low levels of investment in agricultural infrastructure.
|Low Income Average||
Table: Agricultural growth rates 1980-2000
Despite these constraints, as Table shows, Bangladesh agriculture has not done too badly over the last two decades. Bangladesh’s agricultural growth rate has been comparable to the low-income country average, though it has been a little bit lower than the growth rates achieved in neighboring India and Pakistan.
We will see that this creditable performance has been due to the rapid spread of the Green Revolution in Bangladesh.
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