Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday urged the countrymen to make all-out efforts so Bangladesh never has to face any situation like famine and food insufficiency due to prolonged Russia-Ukraine conflict and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
"We have soil and manpower. So, we have to take initiative from now on so that Bangladesh never has to face famine and food insufficiency-like situations. We will have to grow our food," she said.
The premier was virtually addressing a programme organised to hand over Bangabandhu Jatiya Krishi Puroshkar-1425 and 1426 (Bangla year), the highest state recognition in the agriculture sector, to 44 individuals and organizations in 10 categories, from her official Ganabhaban residence.
The Ministry of Agriculture organised the function at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday morning.
The prime minister referred to her talks with the heads of the government and state of the different countries mostly developed ones in the United Nations General assembly in New York and in the funeral of Queen Elizabeth 11 in London.
She said during her talks with the world leaders, they apprehended that a famine or food insufficiency may hit the world in 2023 due to the war.
She said she doesn't think the war will end immediately as it benefits those who sell arms and some other countries despite commoners across the globe are suffering immensely due to skyrocketing prices of goods and services for the war.
"I called upon the global community to take measures to stop the war and arrange food, treatment and education for the mankind, particularly for the children," she said.
The premier said her government is working tirelessly to ensure food security for the countrymen, hoping that they would be successful in doing so, as they have effectively tackled the Covid-19 situation.
Referring to the remarks on not keeping a single inch of land uncultivated by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, she urged the countrymen to grow food grains on whatever places they have.
She said, "We have to be self-reliant by growing food for ourselves and we have to give some produced grains to the neighbours."
Agriculture Minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim and Agriculture Ministry's Parliamentary Affairs Standing Committee Chairman and former Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury spoke at the function.
Secretary of the Agriculture Ministry Md Sayedul Islam gave the address of welcome while one of the award recipients, Sharmin Akhter expressed her feelings on behalf of the award winners.
A documentary on the success of the Agriculture Ministry and its activities was screened at the function.
On behalf of the prime minister, the agriculture minister distributed the award among the recipients for their contribution to agriculture research and expansion, cooperatives, motivation, technology innovation, commercial farming, aforestation, rearing livestock and poultry and fish farming.
Of the winners, 15 individuals and organizations got the award for the Bangla year of 1425 while 21 individuals and organizations for the Bangla year of 1426.
Three gold medals, twenty-five bronze medals and sixteen silver medals were distributed among the selected persons and organizations.
Each of the gold medal winners received Taka one lakh along with 18-carat gold medal weighing 25 grams, while each silver medal winner got Tk 50,000 along with a medal of 25 grams pure silver and each bronze medal winner received Tk 25,000 along with a bronze medal.
Sheikh Hasina said prices of goods alongside its transportation cost have increased manifolds in the global market due to the war, sanctions and counter sanctions, reminding the countrymen that Bangladesh has to import diesel, wheat and edible oil.
The prime minister said Bangladesh will have to increase the production of edible oil as it has to import 90 percent of it from abroad.
She said local people earlier produced oil by crashing nuts, but it was not done now, adding the process should start again.
"We have to take measures on how we grow it (edible oil) by ourselves without being dependent on others," she said.
In this connection, she mentioned that high quality seed of food grains has been gotten through research, saying Bangladesh can produce sunflower and soybean oil using its fertile land.
"We have to keep in mind that we will never be dependent on imports, rather we will stand on our own feet," she said.
She also said Bangladesh has to increase production of agricultural goods to add more items in the export basket.
"We have no longer been dependent on one or two export items. I think agricultural goods can contribute the most to increase the export items," she added.
The premier said her government has been establishing 100 special economic zones across the country aimed at setting up industries in a planned way mainly to save the arable lands alongside generating employment and thus making development of the country.
She said she has a target to establish agriculture processing or food processing industries in the special economic zones, as the processed food has huge demand at home and abroad.
Noting that most of the food grains or agricultural items are perishable, she stressed the need for proper preservation of the food items.
The prime minister said they have arranged separate funds for building storages to preserve the food items maintaining the required temperature for the specific agricultural goods.
Sheikh Hasina said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had given the topmost priority on agriculture for the development of the country and on research for the development of agriculture.
She said that Bangabandhu had established all the agriculture related research institutes.
The prime minister said following the footsteps of Bangabandhu, her government has also given utmost priority on agriculture, research and mechanisation of agriculture.
"When we assumed power in 1996, there was no separate allocation for research. We first allocated money for research particularly in agriculture," she said.
Due to the research, Bangladesh has got flood, draught and saline tolerant paddy and high quality seeds of food grain, she said.
"It is our target to march the country ahead by increasing food production through making agriculture mechanised," she said.
She also said her government is giving 60 to 70 percent subsidy in making agriculture mechanised.
The premier said when she declared Bangladesh self-sufficient in food production in the parliament, BNP's top leaders including Khaleda Zia and Saifur Rahman opined that self-sufficiency in food production was not good because Bangladesh would not get food assistance from abroad due to it.
"Then I told the parliament that the begging nation has no dignity quoting the Father of the Nation," she said, adding that it is a matter of policy of a government that someone likes to live on begging while someone likes to live with dignity.