Sugar cane production is declining

Sugarcane production and acreage in Bangladesh has more than halved in the past two decades as farmers find it difficult to get a steady stream of profit from the harvest, official figures show.

Production was 67.42 lakh tons in fiscal year 2000-01 but fell to 33.33 lakh tons in 2020-21, according to the Bangladesh Economic Review 2022.

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During the period, the cultivated area decreased to 1.92 lakh acres from over 4.17 lakh acres.

In FY21, sugar cane production fell nearly 10 percent from a year ago. About 36.83 lakh tons of sugar cane were grown in FY2019-20 on 2.13 lakh acres of land.

In Tangail, sugar cane cultivation has decreased this year compared to a year ago. As a result, the goal set by the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) could not be achieved.

According to the DAE in the district, the target has been set for the current season to grow sugar cane on 500 hectares of land with a view to producing 23,600 tons of sugar.

However, the crop is grown on 388 acres of land, according to Nargis Akter, a sub-assistant agricultural officer of the district’s state-run agency.

The crop was grown on 422 hectares of land last year, producing 20,256 tons of sugar cane.

In the sadar upazila, the DAE aimed to grow sugar cane on 250 hectares of land to produce 11,800 tons of the crop. Finally, 160 hectares were cultivated.

Ziaur Rahman, an upazila agricultural official in Tangail Sadar, attributed the fear of flooding to the lower crop. Farmers grew corn, paddy and vegetables instead of sugar cane.

“However, yields have improved compared to last year due to favorable weather conditions. Farmers are also getting higher prices as consumer demand for sugar cane sticks has increased,” he said.

Sugarcane farming is also more profitable than other crops, as crops such as oilseeds, spices and lentils, and vegetables can be grown alongside them as companion crops, officials say, adding that growing associated crops can help partially offset losses if sugarcane is damaged by any natural disasters.

While visiting several sugar cane fields in the sadar and Ghatail upazilas, it was seen that the harvesting of the crop was in progress.

Wholesalers from Tangail and neighboring districts were found to be collecting sugar cane sticks from the fields. They will send them via trucks to different parts of the country, including Dhaka.

Amzad Hossain, a farmer in Silimpur village in Tangail sadar upazila, has grown sugar cane on 55 decimal places this year and spent Tk 80,000. He has sold sugar cane worth Tk 1.5 lakh.

“In addition, I have grown tomato, potato and garlic in the same field as the corresponding crops,” he said.

In the past, Kader Miah, another farmer in the same area, farmed Aman paddy on his 14 decimal land and was able to recoup farming costs.

He grew sugar cane on the same land last year and suffered losses from flooding.

“I have grown sugar cane this year and made a profit of Tk 15,000,” he said.

During a recent visit to the Dharerbari market in the sadar upazila, it was discovered that a piece of sugar cane is being sold for Tk 20 to Tk 40.

Ershad Miah, a villager, said he bought eight sticks of sugar cane for his relatives for Tk 270.

Several farmers have sought support from the government to boost sugar cane cultivation in the area and put more land under the crop’s cultivation.

“Local sugar cane farmers suffered huge losses due to damage caused by the floods last year, but no one from the agriculture department came forward to help us,” said Jinnat Miah, a farmer in Dhitpur village in the Sadar Upazila.

He grew the crop last year on three and a half bigha of land at a cost of Tk 70,000. But all his crops were damaged by the floods.

“So I haven’t grown sugar cane this year,” he said.

Ahsanul Bashar, deputy director of DAE in Tangail, says sugarcane cultivation has not met its target in the district because farmers who suffered losses from flooding last year have failed to grow crops this year.

This year, a few new varieties of sugar cane, namely BSRI-41 and 42, were planted in the district alongside the local varieties, he said.

“The agriculture department has given the local farmers the necessary advice, including how to save the crop from a pest attack.”

Amid ongoing losses, the government has closed six sugar mills in 2020: Setabganj Sugar Mill in Dinajpur, Panchagarh Sugar Mill, Shyampur Sugar Mill in Badarganj upazila or Rangpur, Pabna Sugar Mill, Kushtia Sugar Mill and Rangpur Sugar Mill.

Currently, nine state-run factories produce sugar by grinding sugar cane.

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