Allocations for both the agriculture and food ministries in the proposed budget for the fiscal year (FY) 2021-22 have showed a decline compared to total outlay raising concern among the experts during the ongoing pandemic situation.
Tk 162 billion has been earmarked for the agriculture ministry and Tk 47.12 billion for the food ministry which are 2.68 per cent and 0.78 per cent respectively of the total budget outlay proposed for FY'22.
It was 2.74 per cent for the agriculture ministry and 1.0 per cent for the food ministry respectively in the proposed budget for FY'21.
The allocation for the food ministry has declined also in the flesh by Tk 7.37 billion for the next fiscal than that of the last budget.
However, allocation for the agriculture sector has increased by Tk 7.59 billion compared to that of the outgoing budget but its share to the total outlay has shrunk in real terms.
For agriculture allocation was 3.04 per cent of the total budget in FY'19 which declined to 2.74 in FY'20 and 2.72 per cent in FY'21.
The food ministry's allocation was almost same at 1.0 per cent of the total budget for last three fiscal years from FY'19 to FY'21 which declined notably in the proposed budget for FY'22.
Expressing their concern, experts said expenditure on food, agriculture, heath and research should be given top priorities during the pandemic to tackle disasters.
Prof Abdul Hamid, chairman of Agrarian Research Foundation (ARF), said following the outbreak of pandemic as well as random natural calamities, farm sector should get an increased allocation.
He said production of both Boro and Aman paddy has been affected by natural disasters which should be given highest focus to ensure the country's food security during this global pandemic.
The government has taken a farm mechanisation programme which is praiseworthy but allocation should be increased for the programme so that marginal farmers could even get such equipment free of cost, he added.
Value chain expert Golam Hafeez Kennedy said the government might have to import food grains in large volume in the coming months apart from procuring from the domestic sector for maintaining a safer public food stock.
Prices of food grains are now much higher in the globe compared to the pre-pandemic period as many exporting nations are making stockpiles fearing shortage during the Covid-19 pandemic, he added.
Prof Kennedy also said the government's food stock has increased somewhat to 0.94 million tonnes recently but it is still much lower than a safer stock of 1.5 million tonnes.
He said food expenditure of the government will rise further in coming months; so budget should have been increased for food purchase both from the global and domestic sources.
Prof Kennedy also said research on multi-stress and disease tolerant rice varieties is needed due to frequent failure of many existing varieties amid variable climatic condition.
"Allocation for farm research should be increased many folds to develop suitable stress and disease-tolerant seeds," he said.
"To boost farm production, allocations for both the farmers and government's agricultural agencies should be raised," he said further.
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