THERE was a time when Bangladesh had no requirement to import oilseeds or cooking oil, pulses and spices. Now, huge quantities of the same have to be imported on a regular basis because domestic production of the same have sharply declined due to monocropping or largely cereal production. The monocropping is not only draining big amounts of precious foreign currency, it is also causing loss of soil fertility. It is to be noted here that soil fertility is preserved when crops are rotated and one crop is not planted in the same field, again and again.
It has become very necessary to adopt a policy of diversified agricultural production and implement it through various measures so that the non-cereal produces can be produced in much greater amounts. Seasonal production of non-cereals in lands -- now exclusively utilised for cereal production -- will reduce import dependence of these and impact favourably on the country's balance of payments position. The strategy ought to be getting much higher yields of cereals from cultivable lands when these will be used for cereal production to compensate for the time when the lands remain engaged for the production of non-cereals.
The agriculture's sub-sectors such as dairies, poultries, cattle rearing, etc., also require focused attention because these areas have been also stagnating for a period. It is no propaganda that in the early part of the last decade encouraging results were obtained from policies designed to encourage dairies and poultries. The country presently spends a great deal of resources to import milk powder. But this drain of foreign currency dwindled down appreciably in the first half of the nineties as a large number of dairies sprang up to explore opportunities created by government's policy in that period. The outcome was much increase in milk and dairy production in the country and the same lead to notable import substitution. Unfortunately, these policies were neglected later, in the second half of the last decade, and the negative results are obvious. Therefore, it has become very important to reintroduce and implement these policies with greater enthusiasm.