Agriculture is the dominant economic activity in Bangladesh and regarded as the lifeline of the Bangladesh economy. Its role is vital in enhancing productivity, profitability and employment in the rural areas for improving the wellbeing of the poor. As the largest private enterprise, agriculture (crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry) contributes about 21% of the GDP, sustains the livelihood of about 52% of the labour force, and remains a major supplier of raw materials for agro-based industries.
Agriculture plays an important role in the overall economic development of Bangladesh. Agriculture is also a social sector concerned with issues like food and nutritional security, income generation and poverty reduction. Besides, it is the biggest source of market for a variety of consumer goods, including consumer durables particularly in the rural area. Hence, improvement in agricultural sector performance and acceleration in its growth are critical to reducing rural poverty. 1. 2
Agricuture sector encompasses crops, fisheries, livestock, and forestry sub-sectors. Separate policies on livestock, fisheries and forestry have been formulated by the respective ministries. In this perspective, Ministry of Agriculture has drafted this policy document in order to undertake and guide development activities in the crops sub-sector. As expected, policies aimed at crop production in the areas of reaserch, extension, seeds, fertilisers, minor irrigation, marketing, gender and HRD have prominence in this document.
Since crop sector plays a major role in Bangladesh agriculture and gets the utmost importance in various agriculture related programmes of the government, this policy document for the development of crop sector is, therefore, entitled as the National Agriculture Policy. It is estimated that the agricultural land is declining by 1% per year and the land quality is deteriorating owing to degradation of soil fertility (e. g. nutrient imbalance), soil erosion and soil salinity.
In addition, water resources are also shrinking. In order to produce more food for an increasing population, and raw materials for agro-industries, there is a need for increasing agricultural growth through higher productivity, including increased yield, agricultural intensification and diversification, and value addition. The overarching goal of the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) matches with Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of achieving 50% reduction in the proportion of population living below the poverty by 2015.
In addition to maintaining a sound macro-economic framework, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), entitled Unlocking the Potential National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction (GoB, 2005), highlights the need for higher growth in rural areas, development of agriculture and rural non-farm economic activities as one of the four priority areas to accelerating pro-poor economic growth. In order to achieve the GDP growth rate of 7% per year, agriculture must grow by at least 4-4. 5% per year (PRSP, 2005).
This is presumably possible through an increase in agricultural productivity (for crops, horticulture, livestock, fisheries and forestry) based on modern agricultural technology and a supply chain linking farmers with consumers in the domestic as well as overseas markets. Small farms dominate the agrarian structure of Bangladesh. Therefore, performance of the sector greatly affects economic progress and people s livelihood. To reduce rural poverty 2 and improve rural livelihoods, it is necessary to recognize and to develop existing agricultural production system into a more dynamic and viable commercial sector.
Agriculture has the potential to reduce food deficit as well as shortage of industrial raw materials, and also to generate employment opportunities with reasonable income, which will in turn help improve the standard of living of the rural people. The growth potential of most of the crops and other agricultural commodities are substantially higher than present level of production. 1. 7 Sustainable intensification and diversification of agriculture through technological change requires an efficient and productive agricultural technology system comprising agricultural research and extension.
This needs to be supported by appropriate value addition and market linkages. Enhancing productivity, resource use efficiency, using cutting age science, experimental facilities and above all productivity and maintaining a reservoir of first-rate human resources to sustain knowledge-intensive agriculture has become critically important. The Bangladesh agriculture demands considerable scientific and technological input. Today s complex national and economic environment requires increase in the effectiveness of the public expenditure in research and extension system.
Major challenges for the Bangladesh agriculture are to raising productivity and profitability, reducing instability, increasing resource-use efficiency, ensuring equity, improving quality; and meeting demands for diversification & commercialization of agriculture. 1. 9 The existing National Agricultural Policy was adopted in April, 1999. With the passage of time some issues and concerns have emerged in agriculture, in some cases with new dimension. For instance, dwindling agricultural resources, declining biodiversity, climate change, increasing frequency & intensity of natural disasters, increasing input prices, soaring food prices etc.
require transformation of agriculture in such a way that would address challenges to meet demands. This necessitates the revision and updating the earlier document to make it relevant to the present agro-economic context. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of Agriculture Sector For developing of a pragmatic and effective and efficient national agricultural policy, it is a pre-requisite to gauge the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that are associated with the issues of policy interventions.