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Larger loans for minor crop farmers on cards

Hasan Arif
08 Dec 2021 00:02:51 | Update: 08 Dec 2021 00:02:51
Larger loans for minor crop farmers on cards

The Planning Commission has recommended increasing the loan amount for individual farmers of minor crops such as spices, pulses and oilseeds, under a Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives project taken in 2019.

Technical committee of this commission recently suggested boosting the loan amount for each farmer from Tk 15,000 to Tk 25,000 – Tk 30,000, according to a revised project document.

Following necessary revisions, Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB) will implement the project titled “Production and Marketing of Nutritious High Value Minor Crops for Poverty Alleviation,” to help curb import dependency and improve the farmers’ quality of life.

The government initially approved the project in 2019 with a cost of Tk 206.35 crore, but later, efforts began to revise the initiative as its fund requirements increased to boost the amount of loans for each farmer.

However, the authorities concerned still plan to conclude the project within its initial deadline of 2023.

What are the project goals?

With this project, the BRDB will support the cultivation of spices, pulses and oilseeds, which in turn will help improve the living standards of rural poor, lessen Bangladesh’s dependency on imports, and alleviate hunger, malnutrition and poverty through agro sector development.

Sources from the relevant ministry said the project will be implemented in 256 upazilas of 64 districts, and 27,000 beneficiaries have been categorised into 7,680 groups. Under each upazila, there will be 1,055 beneficiaries under the 30 groups.

The government was initially planning to provide minor crop farmers with  a one year loan of Tk 15,000 each. However, they would have needed Tk 405 crore for providing Tk 15,000 in loans to every one of the 27,000 beneficiaries, and the fund only had Tk 114.61 crore, according to project document.

The implementing agency had disbursed loans using the then available funds every farmer would have received a loan of only Tk 4,244.

Under this project, the government had also earmarked Tk 1.16 crore for providing orientation training to 1,336 government, non-government officials and public representatives.

Sources further said the government had decided to disburse Tk 15,000 to each farmer listed under the project in the first year, and then planned to increase the loan amount by 25 per cent in the following years.

However, the Planning Commission’s Technical Committee deemed the loan amount too low for a farmer to help them achieve financial self-reliance and produce more non-traditional minor crops, and suggested that the initial disbursement should be Tk 50,000.

Later, considering the available funds, the committee recommended increasing the initial loan amount to Tk 25,000 – Tk 30,000, and urged the government to disburse the required funds.

According to the BRDB sources, many farmers have lost interest in the cultivation of minor crops such as spices as they consider those unprofitable due to a lack of proper processing and marketing opportunities.

For this reason, Bangladesh has been relying on imports despite having a large demand for such crops in the country. The prices of spices, pulses, and oilseed products also fluctuate in the market because of this issue, and sudden price hikes put consumers in a difficult position.

So, the project will work on balancing the production and supply of minor crops in Bangladesh, saving foreign currency, and improving the quality of farmers’ lives.

Key project activities

Under the project, the BRDB will select land for minor crop cultivation, build communities of small, marginalised farmers and sharecroppers, and help beneficiaries build capital through small savings.

The implementing agency will also raise awareness and skill level of beneficiaries through training, seminars and workshops, and supply them with the necessary technology for minor crop cultivation.

Responding to a query, Rural Development Board’s Director General Supriya Kumar Kundu said, “We will organise the rural poor farmers to focus on the production, preservation and marketing of minor crops. This initiative will help us save foreign currency too.

“With this goal, a recommendation has been made to increase the loan amount of individual farmers from Tk 15,000 to Tk 25,000 – Tk 30,000.”