The government is trying to make an all-out effort to ensure a good Aman harvest, ensuring uninterrupted electricity supply to farmers for irrigation as it looks to ensure food security amid global economic uncertainty.
Usually, farmers use power for irrigation between February and April for the cultivation of the summer crop Boro. But there was less rainfall this year, posing a threat to the production of Aman, which accounted for 39 percent of the rice output in fiscal 2021-22.
“The soil has developed cracks for want of irrigation — that is why we are uncertain about Aman production,” said Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque at a workshop held yesterday at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council.
Subsequently, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had given a directive to the power division to ensure uninterrupted electricity at Monday’s cabinet meeting.
“I hope they will follow the order,” Razzaque said.
The government is aiming to ensure Aman plantation in the cent percent land by this month and irrigation for 30 days, said Balai Krishna Hazra, additional secretary (fertiliser management and monitoring) of the agriculture ministry.
This year, the government has targeted Aman cultivation on 59 lakh hectares of land, said Habibur Rahaman Chowdhury, director of the field service wing of the Department of Agriculture Extension.
So far, the Aman crop has been planted on 49 lakh hectares of land.
Aman plantation is almost complete in the northern districts but irrigation is needed in the Mymensingh division and Dhaka Division, where less rainfall has taken place, said Rahman, who was present at the cabinet meeting on Monday.
The water development board has already opened its large irrigation projects and will restart others soon to reach water to cropland, Hazra told The Daily Star yesterday.
However, there is a possibility of a flood in September.
The agriculture ministry has taken preparations to provide seedlings free to the farmers who will face damage. It is also considering giving cash assistance to farmers for diesel, Hazra said.
“We aim to provide power throughout September,” said an official of the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board, which accounts for 80 percent of the electricity coverage in irrigation.
Leaves of field-level BREB officers have also been cancelled until October to ensure power supply for irrigation smoother, he said after an inter-ministerial meeting for irrigation with the ministry of power energy and mineral resources and the ministry of water resources yesterday.
Special teams have been formed and directed to address the power connection issues within 24 hours, said another official preferring to be unnamed.
“We will provide power according to the farmer’s demands,” he added.
At the cabinet meeting, the agriculture ministry gave a presentation on the areas that require intensive power for irrigation.
Asked, an official of the power division said they will not have to generate extra power for the purpose.
“Plantation has been done in many areas. The weather department informed us that there is a possibility of rain in the coming days. So many areas will not require irrigation.”
Farmers will be supplied power from 12 am to 6 pm when household power consumption drops.
“Therefore, it will not be a problem for us to provide uninterrupted power,” he added.
If there is less rainfall in the country, farmers may need water until October to protect Aman rice, said one of the officials present at the inter-ministerial meeting.
“Farmers have to pay money for connection charges. That’s why some farmers are waiting for rain,” he said.
A proposal was made in the meeting to waive the connection charge to encourage farmers, he said.
Farmers get power connection following the recommendations of the local irrigation committee, said Dhirendra Chandra Debnath, member director (minor irrigation) of the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation.