Bangladesh Krishi Bank (BKB), a bank for farmers, has been working to change the lot of farmers, and in doing so it is playing a leading role in implementing government's agriculture policies.
Rural people need to be involved in a variety of jobs as per respective capacity. Rural development should focus on poverty reduction, increasing people's economic power and improving overall economy of the country, said M A Yousoof, BKB's Managing Director, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer.
Speaking on the 2016-2017 annual national budget, he said infrastructure development must be a priority in rural areas. "So, we want these to be reflected in the coming fiscal budget."
Yousoof said: "We in Bangladesh Krishi Bank demand some more initiatives from the government for improving the farmers' fortune. We keep in mind this slogan: If the farmers live, the country lives. As per government's directive, we are giving the highest agricultural loan through the bank. There is a target of disbursing Tk 65 billion as agricultural loan in the current fiscal year.."
Up to May 15, Tk 52 billion was disbursed, according to the. Bank's top official. Besides, BKB gives loans to the landless and marginal farmers for poverty alleviation through rearing cows and goats, growing fruit trees and forestation, Yousoof said, adding that no other bank provides such loans.
Observer: What type of budgetary measures you suggest for continuing food sufficiency in the country?
Yousoof: It is essential to cooperate with the farmers and agricultural workers to keep the trend of making the country fully self-reliant in food. The government's helping hand will have to be extended in the coming budget, too. After assuming power in 2009 the government initiated subsidies in agricultural inputs like Urea and other types of fertilizer. The government is giving subsidy of more Tk 16 per kilogram of Urea fertilizer, which is a revolutionary step. Side by side, there has been no break in the fertilizer supply. Farmers throughout the country received fertilizer as per their demand. The government has made arrangements for ensuring subsidy in diesel and power supply for irrigation. For this reason, farmers have succeeded in making the country self-reliant in food. And to keep this trend going unhindered, necessary steps will have to be taken in the new budget."
When asked about agricultural inputs, he said to meet the demand for food for the increasing number of population it is essential to increase production. For this reason, duty on agricultural inputs will have to be reduced in the next budget. Especially, import duty on tractors, irrigation machineries and spare parts used in this sector will have to be reduced so that farmers can buy these appliances and machinery parts at low prices. Then they will be encouraged to produce more and the trend of becoming self-reliant in foods will continue.
Observer: What is your opinion about the allocation on agricultural equipment in the budget?
Yousoof: There will have to be more allocations for agriculture and agricultural research. Necessary steps will have to be taken to utilise the country's expatriate meritorious people (who are engaged in jobs in different countries) because they have urge to do something better for their motherland. If necessary, funds can be arranged to utilise their merits for the development of the nation. There is no alternative to utilising such merit in national development.
Observer: How the production can be increased?
Yousoof: Through extensive work, researchers of the country have succeeded in inventing high quality paddy seeds. Investment in paddy research will have to be increased so that more high quality paddy seeds can be invented. Besides domestically available high quality paddy seeds, arrangements will have to be made for importing more quality seeds from aboard. Especially, if various types of fruit and vegetable seeds can be imported and distributed among the farmers we will not have to import fruits and vegetables as well. If we do not have to import rice, fruits and vegetables, much of our foreign exchanges will be saved. And then the government will be able to give attention to more developmental work of the country. New budget will have to be formulated taking these matters into consideration.
Observer: What measures can be taken in the budget for reducing
Yousoof: Budgetary steps will have to be taken for irrigation of drought-prone areas so that farmers are able to produce crops through irrigation of un-utilised lands. If un-utilised lands are used for producing crops much of the farmers' frustration will be removed."
The government's "one house one farm project" will have to be strengthened further. Keeping this in mind necessary arrangements will have to be made in the new budget.
This project has helped poor people of the country to become self-reliant. Because of taking the right steps, the number of the poor in the country has come down from 40 to 26 per cent during the last five years. Focus on poverty reduction should get continued priority in the next budget."
Observer: What about Digital Bangladesh?
Yousoof: The programme of building a Digital Bangladesh that the government has launched is moving towards success. Bangladesh Krishi Bank, too, is not lagging behind digital banking. Nearly 110 BKB branches have been brought under digital system; in future all branches of the bank will come under digitalisation. For this reason duty reduction on computers and computer spares will have to be continued in the new budget.