Dhaka, Bangladesh
Necessity of co-operative farming

Comments & Analyses-I

Necessity of co-operative farming

By Md Bayazid Khan

The news that broke across the country recently is about a frustrated farmer who sets his paddy plants ablaze out of frustration of low price has shocked the nation. It is hard to believe that the farmer himself sprayed kerosene on part of his golden field because of the prices of paddy have kept falling in the last several months owing to a good harvest in the crop season. This season has seen perhaps one of the best paddy yields in recent years. But instead of rejoicing, farmers are in despair with lamentably low market prices. A bountiful harvest has been overshadowed by the grief of paddy farmers throughout Bangladesh. A selling price that is half the cost of production has inflamed paddy farmers across the country. This is nothing new to the farmers. They have bitter experiences of destroying their produced tomatoes, vegetables and even threw away milk on roads for not getting fair price. The nation and the government too definitely feel the pain for the farmers, but at the end of the day, farmers can’t change their destiny. Bangladesh is self-sufficient in food production nowadays and the nation really feels proud of it. This success has become possible due to government direct intervention in agriculture sector. Government has provided substantial supports to farmers for increasing production. The government has been providing huge amount of money as subsidy every year in getting available low cost equipments, fertilizers, irrigation facilities etc by farmers. But, if farmers deprive from gaining profit return to investment despite of growing enormous production, they must be lost interest to continue efforts in paddy or other agriculture products cultivation. On the other hand, farmers’ frequent loss due to price falling in agriculture products definitely compels government to consider its policy of providing subsidy on agro-inputs continue. Now, the time has come to identify the loss factors of farmers’ hardly earned produced paddy and other agro-products. The major factors responsible for price falling are involvement of middlemen or syndicate in selling paddy/rice or other agro-products, government procurement process, farmers’ inadequate preservation facility and continuing import of rice or paddy in spite of growing huge paddy in a crop season. To mitigate the problems that are facing farmers for getting reasonable prices for their cultivated products and to minimize undue intervention of the identified major factors responsible for lower prices of agro-products, following ideas have to be taken considered in agriculture sector: Selling procedure of hardly earned products must be freed from cruel intervention of middlemen or intermediaries. Moreover, syndicate’s intervention to control the market must be stopped. It is also revealed that about 90% farmers are depended on the middlemen for marketing of their products and they did not get fair price from the middlemen because middlemen are playing marketing role. Policy regards to import rice/paddy and other agro-products should depend on local growing production. Procurement process with rationale fair price considering market rate in harvesting season must be started a bit early so that farmers have the intention of selling products to government without any hesitation. There should have adequate preservation facilities with easy access to farmers. As farmers are losing interests in paddy or other agro-products cultivation due to face loss returns to their investment, so domestic production of agro-products including paddy will decrease alarmingly. In this regard, there could be a crisis in the staple food production that will certainly be a threat on food security. In addition, farmers are to face contradictory situations in the form of over production owing to cultivation friendly conducive climate & available facilities and poor production or loss of production due to natural or manmade disasters. Geographically Bangladesh is very ideal for paddy cultivation. Moreover, fertility of land and climate of the country is so conducive to cultivate and produce satisfactory diversified agro-products beside paddy. Keeping this cultivation friendly atmosphere at the heart of our farming scenario, the country needs to take lucrative measures to keep farmers interest in cultivating. But natural disasters, lack of capital, absence of using improved technology in cultivation, illiteracy in agro-production, complex & time consuming accessibility of government facilities, unavailability of adequate labors, costly participation of moneylenders, small scale farming in the form of fragmented plots of land etc are affecting negatively on agro- production. In consideration of minimizing adverse affects of aforesaid issues in agro-sector as well as to remove barriers of getting fair prices of production, farmers and the government may think of introducing comprehensive scheme of Co-operative Farming. Under co-operative farming, owners of fragmented lands are to be asked to have their holdings joined in a scheme of helpful partnership with a view to merge the small agricultural holdings in larger co-operative units. Co-operative is a tested strategy for socio-economic development and however, the movement might be expanded to the agriculture sector to repose farmers’ faith in cultivating. It also brings food security of the country and ensures equity regards to economic solvency among farmers and landless people. So, farmers, landowners and all concerned to agro- economy may consider the following advantages of co-operative farming just to introduce the scheme in Bangladesh. Co-operative cultivation certainly increases production because of using improved technology or method in cultivation and enabling easy access of quality inputs as input suppliers have competitive interests to deal with the cooperatives for supplying equipments & inputs. Farmers, in the cooperatives have the opportunities of gaining and utilizing skills or knowledge for increasing production by receiving training on best pest control, proper uses of fertilizers, improved seedling, faster harvesting method etc on regular basis. Incomes of farmers in the cooperatives must increases due to multifarious positive impact of cooperative like increase production, reduce the cost of production, sell produce with rationale price as the co-operatives knowing price information of domestic and international market deal with the buyers on behalf of the farmers etc. Co-operatives shield farmers from exploitation of getting fair price of produces from chain shop owners or importers or intermediaries. Co-operatives enable to sell produces at the highest possible price or fair price as these have the advantages of bargaining properly with the buyers or middlemen. These may too communicate farmers’ grievances or concerns to the buyers for taking action or remedial. The interest of the farmer is usually the main priority of co-operatives. Challenges like timely payment of produces, providing of loans (From compulsory savings of farmers), medical/education facilities to family members etc might be ensured by the co-operatives. In addition, negotiations on receiving frequently changeable prices of produces and bonuses usually handle by the co-operatives with the interest of the farmers as their main agenda. Co-operative farming facilitates to get timely credit from banks or financial institutions with fair interests by proper bargaining that ensures availability of cultivation needed equipments, inputs, irrigation facilities etc. Apart from that, co-operative certainly assures farmers’ tension free active participation in production. Co-operative farming may ensure effective uses of fragmented cultivable and fallow lands by bringing these under cultivation of diverse traditional and non-traditional agro-products. Co-operative can also promote crab or other export-oriented products cultivation in the saline-prone areas of the country as a non-traditional agro-product. Co-operatives have the capability of inaugurating climate-smart cultivation all the year round managing seasonal natural barriers. Co-operatives may create opportunities to farmers of producing diverse crops instead of producing only paddy or wheat. Moreover, integrated cultivation or farming like paddy & fish, fish & duck etc might be introduced conveniently through co-operatives. Proper storages of food grains in case of over production may become possible by co-operatives that certainly protect farmers from confronting loss due to get poor price of produces. Besides, marketing or exporting of produces with a view to make co-operative cultivation more profitable to farmers than individual cultivation becomes so comfortable and convenient by co-operatives. — The writer is working for primary education

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