FAO distributing paddy seed among COVID-19-hit farmers in Cox’s Bazar


DHAKA, June 28, 2020 (BSS) – FAO, in partnership with the Department of Agricultural Extension, is distributing paddy seed to 24,000 farmers in Cox’s Bazar in response to the coronavirus pandemic and last month’s super cyclone Amphan.

The emergency response will provide support for farmers who have been hit hard by the two simultaneous crises, helping them safeguard their livelihoods during a time of need, a FAO press release said.

“This distribution of rice seed to 24,000 farmers comes at a crucial time. Food producers have been under huge strain, having to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and a cyclone,” said Robert D Simpson, FAO Representative in Bangladesh.

“FAO knows that shocks such as these can have a drastic effect on food security, especially for vulnerable communities. By providing farmers with high quality rice seed now, in time for the aman season crop, we will be helping them get through this difficult period, as well as provide for the overall population food security needs,” he said.

The DAE and FAO selected farmers from two sub-districts, Ukhiya and Teknaf. Staff from the two organisations, with support from government (Union Parishad) representatives, will provide a 10kg packet of seed to each farmer, plus a hygiene kit.

They will be delivered door-to-door to ensure maximum safety from COVID-19 transmission. More than 7 000 of the selected beneficiaries have also benefited from other FAO programmes, including farmer field schools.

The government of Canada, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), funded the emergency initiative. “FAO has been the key partner of DAE in efforts to enhance food security in Cox’s Bazar through distribution of seeds, agro-machinery, and training thousands of farmers,” said Abul Kashem, Deputy Director, DAE, Cox’s Bazar.

Md Nikaruzzaman Chowdhury, Ukhiya Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), said: “This is a timely intervention to achieve a Government priority in line with the Prime Minister’s directive to utilise land to increase food production in the district.”

The seed, sourced from the Bangladesh Agriculture Development Cooperation, was inspected in order to ensure that it met FAO’s global standard. FAO and DAE will provide technical support and skills development for the farmers to promote best practices from cultivation until harvest.

FAO estimates that the entire distribution will be enough to plant 8,000 hectares and produce a total yield of 37 000 tonnes – about a sixth of the area’s typical aman rice yield.

Cox’s Bazar has an estimated 2,36,000 farmer households who cultivate 89,398 hectares. The region produces a surplus of food, mainly because of its rice production. Nearly 70 percent of rice farmers cultivate aman rice in the monsoon season.

FAO and DAE implemented the rice distribution initiative following a recent FAO study in which farmers said they faced difficulties buying high quality seeds because of COVID-19 and Cyclone Amphan.

The report shows that agricultural supply chains in Cox’s Bazar were stable, although farmers faced a number of challenges including transportation of produce to market, labour shortages, and inadequate supply of some inputs.