More needs to be done on farm mechanization

The INADEQUACY in farm mechanization and its impact on agriculture has come to the fore in the flood-affected districts of the northeast, where farmers struggle to harvest and dry their crops. Farmers in the northeast, covering seven districts accounting for a quarter of the total boron agricultural area, have had to face heavy losses as flash floods inundated fields three times starting in April. What has aggravated the plight of farmers is the absence of modern agricultural machinery. Although many farmers have managed to harvest their produce manually, they were unable to dry the crop in the absence of dry open spaces and lack of sunlight, resulting in losses. Such a situation has pushed many farmers to decide not to harvest the rice. Even after the government has implemented a series of agricultural mechanization projects, it is worrying that farmers still incur losses due to the absence of simple agricultural machines such as dryers. Bangladesh has had an agricultural mechanization project underway since 2009 and only seven rice dryers have been made available to farmers so far.

As an ongoing process, agricultural mechanization has seen major improvement in irrigation and tillage, but other labor-intensive areas such as transplanting, harvesting, and drying still rely heavily on manual labor. About 98 percent of irrigation and tillage, according to official estimates, has been mechanized. However, independent estimates put the rate at just over 50 percent. The rate of mechanization in transplanting, harvesting and drying ranges from 5 to 20 percent. With the world adopting mechanized agriculture, which can save about 30 percent of time and labour, and ensure less seed and fertilizer waste and an increase in overall production of about 15 percent, and a growing shortage of human resources in agriculture, mechanized agriculture is what is needed to support farmers. As for the farmers in the Northeast, if they had had enough dryers and combines, they could have saved their ripe and harvested produce. Farmers have also long emphasized early and effective mechanization of agriculture to complete crop-related activities in a timely manner to reduce production losses and overcome labor shortages. They have also identified problems such as fragmented land, poor purchasing power of farmers, and lack of quality machinery as obstacles to effective farm mechanization.

As an increasing share of the workforce is absorbed by other industries in cities, leading to severe human resource shortages in agriculture, and as natural disasters often make it difficult for farmers to harvest and preserve their harvest , proper mechanized agriculture can save small farmers. The authorities must therefore provide farmers with modern machines at subsidized prices or through easy loans and must help local manufacturers of agricultural machinery.

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