Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has announced a new stimulus package of Tk5,000 crore for farmers to boost agricultural production in the backdrop of the COVID-19 fallout.
She has also unveiled some other initiatives by the government for the agriculture sector.
The money from the fund will be disbursed among small and medium-scale farmers, including those in the poultry and dairy sector, in rural areas, at five percent interest, said the prime minister.
She was delivering her introductory speech in a videoconference from her official residence Ganobhaban with government officials and public representatives from Khulna and Barishal divisions on Sunday.
Hasina said the Bangladesh Bank would formulate the refinancing scheme of the amount to be disbursed as working capital in the agriculture sector.
“Small and medium-scale farmers in rural areas will get loans from the fund, and they can use the money to produce agricultural products, flowers, fruits, fish and poultry, etc.”
The premier said Bangladesh is still an agriculture-dependent country, and the current situation has demanded enhanced volumes of produce.”That is why we are taking special measures.”
She said there will be an additional allocation of Tk9,000 crore for fertiliser subsidy in the next budget as part of the government’s strategy to minimize the impact of the deadly virus on the economy.
Besides, the existing disbursement of loans at four percent interest for spices will continue, she said.
The Bangladesh Bank is giving credit to farmers at four percent interest to produce spices, including onions, garlic, ginger, and chilli.
Noting that the government has already allocated Tk100 crore to the agriculture ministry to mechanize the harvesting of crops, Hasina said the government will allocate another Tk100 crore for this purpose.
She said the government will also allocate Tk150 crore to distribute seeds among affected farmers so that agricultural production will continue.
“Our agricultural activities will have to be continue. The most important thing is ensuring food security.”
The prime minister said directives have already been given to the administration and to law enforcement agencies to allow the movement of people engaged in harvesting crops and facilitating the supply chain.
Hasina has asked concerned authorities to arrange a weekly haat (makeshift market) in an open field in every area by maintaining social distancing so that farmers can sell their produce.
During the upcoming Boro season, the government will procure an extra two lakh tonnes of paddy and rice compared to the last season to ensure a fair price for farmers, she said.
Mentioning that the government has arranged different stimulus packages and assistance, Hasina said the government is always ready to help people of all professions, including farmers, workers, daily wage-earners, weavers, blacksmiths and fishermen.
Earlier on March 25, the premier announced a Tk5,000 crore bailout package to pay wages and allowances of workers and employees of export-oriented industries.
On April 5, she declared an allocation of Tk72,750 crore under a set of stimulus packages to overcome the possible impact of Covid-19 on the country’s economy.
On Sunday, the prime minister again asked the local administration and local people to keep their respective localities and areas protected so that no outsider can suddenly go there.
She urged the people of the country to be very careful about the novel coronavirus and follow the government’s directives as the virus is highly contagious.
Hasina instructed the deputy commissioner of Meherpur not to observe Mujibnagar day on April 17 with gatherings of people. She further ordered him not to allow people from outside to gather in Mujibnagar to observe the day.
The premier again warned that people engaging in corruption in relief distribution during this crisis will not be spared.
“We will not pardon or forgive anyone involved in corruption in the distribution of relief items that we are providing,” she said.
Her Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus moderated the videoconference.
On April 7, the prime minister held a videoconference with government officials and public representatives of Chattogram and Sylhet divisions to discuss the Covid-19 situation in those areas.