The ministry of agriculture (MoA) has been considering converting all lands under tobacco cultivation into maize fields to raise the production of the cereal up to 6.0 million tonnes by 2021, officials said.
Presently, the country grows 3.2 million tonnes of maize a year and also imports another 1.0 million tonnes for the growing animal feed industry, according to MoA.
The issue was discussed at the monthly meeting on the progress of the implementation of Annual Development Programme (ADP) of the ministry at its office on Tuesday, with agri secretary Md Nasiruzzaman in the chair.
At the meeting, Agriculture minister Dr Abdur Razzaque said tobacco cultivation has been expanding in the country although several attempts have been taken and campaigns launched to discourage it.
"We must take effective programmes to help tobacco farmers switch to maize cultivation," he said.
The demand for maize has been growing in the country due to the rising demand for animal feeds, he added.
The minister also said poultry, dairy and fisheries sectors have been attaining a double-digit growth for the last one decade.
"We will supply quality maize seeds to farmers free of cost to boost the cereal production," he said.
"If we could minimise tobacco lands and can bring all such farms under maize cultivation, we could raise the maize output up to 6.0 million tonnes by 2021."
The minister further said: "Thus, we can save millions of foreign exchange by reducing maize import."
Lands under the corn cultivation in Bangladesh have expanded by 16 per cent a year over the last five years, a higher growth rate compared to any other crop, according to the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE).
The DAE data also showed that farmers also cultivated tobacco on more than 0.122 million hectares of land last year, up from 0.085 million hectares in 2015.
The tobacco farming increased mainly in Rangpur, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Bandarban, Cox's Bazar and Kushtia districts during the period.
The minister also put emphasis on safe and nutritious food production for building a healthy nation.
He said the country has achieved sufficiency in major food items and is now focusing on food quality.
He also said commercial farming should be promoted further, with a focus on both domestic and external markets.
Farmers who will grow safe foods will benefit more in the coming days, he added.
The meeting was informed that the agriculture ministry has spent 38 per cent of the ADP allocation of Tk 17 billion in the first seven months of the current financial year (FY 2019).
Both the minister and the secretary assured that all 72 projects of the ministry under the ADP would be implemented within the stipulated time.
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