Hot weather, low rainfall dry up farmers' profits in Bangladesh

Amid rising cost of fuel, fertilizer, farmers face lowest rainfall and hottest temperatures in 4 decades.

Hot weather, low rainfall dry up farmers' profits in Bangladesh

Md Fazlu Mia had been waiting for days to get his share of water from the Teesta Barrage Irrigation Project as weeks had passed and the monsoon season was yet to bring enough rain so he could transplant rice seedlings into puddled and leveled fields.

Fazlu, in his late forties, lives in Fakirganj village in the northern district of Nilphamari and works in other fields as a contract farmer, sharing 50% of the profit with the fields' owners.

“Making any profit from farming this year seems difficult. I am concerned about the well-being of my five-member family,” he told Anadolu Agency.

The Teesta Barrage, located 44 kilometers (27 miles) northeast of Nilphamari, helped farmers a bit with its irrigation project, which began operation in 1979. But farmers in northern Kurigram district or southwestern Khulna district almost entirely depend on rainfall for transplanting seedlings as rivers dry up due to changing weather.

Farmers experienced unprecedented flash floods in June that submerged 15,852 hectares (39,171 acres) of land in northeastern Bangladesh. The country’s farmers now face drought in the full rainy season.

While July is supposed to receive the highest amount of rainfall, the country received less than half of the average rainfall this July, the lowest in 41 years, according to the weather office.

Agronomists say the process of preparing seed beds for planting seedlings during the monsoon season from June to August is almost over. Now crop production depends on rain. If the planting is delayed, the yield will decrease.

To ensure maximum yields, young seedlings should be transplanted within 15-20 days of age. As time passes, the yields will decrease. Farmers are already late in planting saplings. If irrigation is not ensured, rice production will be severely affected, fear farmers and experts.

Low rainfall, record-high temperatures

Adverse climate effects caused the lowest rainfall in July this year since 1981 – less than half of the average rainfall.

The adverse weather is impacting agricultural output, including production of the main staple rice, which largely depends on rainfall. The changing weather pattern is blamed for the situation.

“Uninterrupted water supply is crucial for agriculture production, but the changing weather brings less rainfall. The Rangpur and Rajshahi division, the western part of Dhaka and Khulna city have seen low rainfall in recent years, and agriculture-based industries in those cities are suffering from the climate effect,” Md Abdul Mannan, a meteorologist with the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, told Anadolu Agency:

The Meteorological Department also recorded the highest temperature in the Rangpur and Rajshahi division in the last 40 years this summer from March to July. The department recorded an average higher temperature of 2.6C (36.6F) compared to the last corresponding periods.

Climate effects

Mohammed Nasir Uddin, a professor at Bangladesh Agricultural University, told Anadolu Agency that low rainfall and high temperatures cause water evaporation in soil. In the process of evaporation, necessary nutrients and microbes also die, impacting soil fertility.

“Climate change effects are a global phenomenon, and Bangladeshi farmers are among the worst victims of them. This growing challenge for farmers impacts the whole food supply chain, and high inflation hits the market,” he said.

Additional power supplies and diesel fuel are needed to ensure irrigation during the dry season. Finally, it raises the cost of production, and farmers have to bear the burden of irrigation costs amid an increased fuel price, he added.

The government has further raised fuel oil and fertilizer prices, driving up farmers’ production costs. It raised the prices of diesel and kerosene by 42.5% to 114 Taka ($1.20) per liter and urea fertilizer by 6 Taka to 22 Taka ($0.23) per kilogram this month.

The late monsoon and low rainfall will push back the coming crop season in the winter this year by two to three weeks.

“Low rainfall in the full rainy season will certainly delay the following cultivation in the coming winter season by 15-20 days, and farmers will have to wait to grow vegetables or other crops in the same field due to the late monsoon,” Mannan added.

If the trend continues, it will impact food production and the country’s economy. Timely rainfall is crucial for the environment. Sufficient rainfall in the monsoon season brings alluvium from upstream, which is crucial to keep the soil fertile.

Mir Sharf Uddin Ahmed, principal scientific officer at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, told Anadolu Agency that they too are facing difficulties in planting or transplanting climate-resilient rice in experimental seed beds due to the low rainfall.

“However, we are giving necessary guidance to farmers to cope up with the growing climate challenges. We are also providing lab-developed climate-resilient and high-yielding seeds to farmers and helping them in practical ways to cultivate them,” he said.