Rangamati, Aug 24 (UNB) – Life is a balancing act. Who knows it better than the residents of Majherbasti in Rangamati municipality! These people have to cross the Kaptai Lake using a ramshackle bamboo bridge for the last five decades as no move was taken to build a concrete bridge over the lake during those long years.
Locals said they have to rebuild the makeshift bamboo bridge spending Tk 10,000-15000 during monsoon almost every year as it turns rickety due to use by a large number of people.
Local people, including students and farmers, have to depend on the bamboo bridge as this is the lone means for reaching their different destinations. Ultimately, students and patients are the worst sufferers.
When water level in the lake falls during the dry season, people wade through mud to reach Tabalcharri Bazar, Reserve Bazar and Bonorupa Bazar, said the villagers.
They alleged that Ward No. 3 of Majherbasti Sadar police outpost area remained neglected since independence despite its close proximity to the town.
They said the people of the area cannot avail themselves of various government facilitates due to poor communication system.
Babul Shukla, a resident of the area, said patients who need immediate hospitalisation have to stay home because it is difficult to take them to hospitals through the risky bridge.
Urging the authorities concerned to build a concrete bridge in the area, Oli Ahmed, a resident of the area, said local people have to use boats for crossing the lake when reconstruction of the temporary bridge takes time.
Contacted, Rangamati Municipality Mayor Akbar Hossain Chowdhury said a concrete bridge will be built there next year, but he did not give further details.
Dhaka, Aug 24 (UNB) – Once highly dependent on Indian cattle for meeting the huge demand of sacrificial animals during Eid-ul-Azha, Bangladesh is now planning a large-scale export of cattle meat as local farms have staged a ‘quiet revolution’ in animal husbandry.
Officials at the Department of Livestock Services (DLS) said they have taken various steps to boost the cattle meat export since the country’s number of surplus cattle has been growing significantly over the last few years with over 10 lakh this year alone.
Experts think India’s ban on cattle export has encouraged many farmers, traders and unemployed educated youths to take up cattle farming to steadily turn the crisis into an opportunity to attain cattle autarky.
“We’ve over 10 lakh surplus cattle this year meeting the huge demand of sacrificial animals during this eid. We had also huge surplus cattle in the last three years,” DLS Director General Hiresh Ranjan Bhowmik told UNB.
He said around 26 lakh cows entered Bangladesh from India in 2012, but with the rise in local production it continued to decline gradually. “In the last seven months of this year, only 92,000 cows were brought from India and Myanmar. People also now don’t want to buy Indian cattle. Our goat population is increasing substantially.”
The DLS DG, however, feared that there will an imbalance between the production and demand if the country does not go for a large-scale export of cattle meat with the growing local production.
“We now export cattle meat on a very small-scale by two farms-- Bengal Meat and Deshi Meat. We’ve some drawbacks to boost our export as we still couldn’t fulfill some WTO conditions. One of the conditions is to free the entire country or its some zones from hand-foot-and-mouth, or HFMD disease of the cattle,” the DLS DG said.
He said the two companies now collect cows for beef export only from three upazilas in Pabna as those were announced free from HFMD. “We’re now going to declare four districts--Sirajganj, Pabna, Manikganj and Bhola--free from the disease through mass vaccination and other activities to boost the export.”
For the export, Hiresh said, there is another condition of having an international standard quality control laboratory for testing meat and other animal derivatives. “We’ve already established such a laboratory in Savar which will go into operation in January next.”
He said they also have to complete some other process to get a certificate from The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and they are working on it. “Once we get a certificate from OIE, WTO will accept it, paving the way for boosting the export.”
The DLS DG said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is very eager to increase the cattle meat export. “She has asked us to take export-oriented steps. So, we’re taking various projects keeping export in mind and the government is approving all the projects.”
AFM Asif, the chief executive officer of Bengal Meat, said they are now exporting meat on a small-scale to Middle East countries and the Maldives. “It’s around 12 to 25 tonnes a month.”
He said Bangladesh has the huge scope to boom its meat export across the world and grab a large share of global halal meat market.
Asif said Bangladesh’s global rating for exporting meat is very poor but the government is currently working to improve it.
He also said the cattle production cost is very high in Bangladesh due to high rate of cattle feed. “So, the prices of cattle feed should be controlled alongside raising the number of cattle stocks for increasing the meat export.”
Prof Dr Md Nurul Islam, dean of Animal Husbandry Faculty at Bangladesh Agricultural University, said there is no alternative to increasing the export of cattle meat keeping the pace with the huge growth in the sector. “Otherwise, the farmers may not get fair prices of their cattle as the number of surplus cattle is growing every year.”
He said the cattle sector has developed in the country with the united efforts of the government, NGOs, private farms and farmers.
Prof Islam said effective programmes for genetic development of cattle, crossbreeding local cattle with high-yielding species like Brahman and Friesian, artificial breeding technique, the proper medication of the cattle population, Bangladesh Bank’s soft loan for setting up farms and extensive training for cattle farmers helped the country achieve cattle autarky reducing dependency on others.
He said the government should take some steps to make the progress achieved in the sector sustainable. “The cattle feed should be cheaper and free from harmful medicines, and the framers should be encouraged to follow organic-farming methods.”
Mohammad Shah Emran, the general secretary of Bangladesh Dairy Farmers’ Association (BDFA), said the fall in cattle import from India has become a boon for the development of cattle and dairy farms.
“The number of cattle farms and farmers are growing day by day. The government should now take some effective steps to protect the interests of farmers,” he said.
Narail, Aug 23 (UNB) – Over one lakh people of Lohagarah upazila have been suffering immensely as the construction work on a 175-metre bridge over the Nabaganga River could not be completed in three years’ time.
The work on the much-sought bridge started in April 2016 at Gandab Ghat under Kashipur union over the river. It was supposed to be completed on October 22, 2017 but the project is still far away from completion.
Locals alleged that the project work is moving at a snail’s pace due to negligence of the contractor firm.
According to sources at Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED), 85 percent works on the bridge have so far completed.
The government allocated Tk 10.19 crore to construct the bridge and PPL-NA, a contractor firm owned by Nayeb Ali Khan, got the bridge work.
During a recent visit to the construction site, the UNB correspondent found only 8-9 workers working at the site. The link roads on both sides of the bridge are yet to be constructed.
Mustafizur Rahman, deputy assistant engineer of the upazila, said five slabs have been installed over 15 girders of the bridge while the welding work on the last girder is going on. “We’re trying to complete the construction work by December next,” he said.
According to the locals, workers had to sit idle for about four months due to the delay in construction material supply.
However, the bridge is expected to benefit the residents of 40 villages under eight unions once it is opened as it will help farmers carry their farm produces to local markets easily and quickly.
Kabir Hossain, a lecturer at Lohagara Government Ideal College and a resident of Gandab village, said there are two big villages—Gandab and Chalighat—on the northern side of the river, and the residents of the villages have to cross the river to go to the union parishad and land offices and the union health centre.
More importantly, he said, there is a vast track of cropland on the southern side of the river, and the bridge is expected to assuage the sufferings of people living in Kashipur, Joypur, Noagram and Lahuria unions.
RumanaParvin, headteacher of Gandab Government Primary School, said most students of her school have to attend their classes and examinations by crossing the river taking risks.
GolamKibria, a trader in Manikganj Bazar, said he takes his farm produces to ErendaHaat through an alternative longer route. Once the construction work on the bridge is completed, he will be able to take his produces to the local haat easily at a lower cost, he said.
Nur Islam Sharif, manager of the contractor firm, said they have to suspend the construction work due to strong monsoon currents in the river, an excuse turned down by locals.
Contacted, Bidhan Chandra Somaddar, Executive Engineer of the Local Government Engineering Department in the district, said the construction work on the bridge will be completed soon.
Khulna, Aug 23 (UNB)– Rice bran oil of a company is being sold at the markets here allegedly mixed with pig fat, creating panic among consumers.
A buyer while visiting a departmental store named ‘Kenakata’ at Rupsha traffic intersection in Khulna metropolitan city asked the sales staff as to why this brand of cholesterol-free fortified rice bran oil is stored at the shop.
Is it true that Rab members seized 2000 tons of pig fat from the factory of the company, he raised question.
“Is it that. Then of course I will return the product whenever the company people come,” said a sales person.
Not only the rice bran oil but other food items banned by the High Court for two times, flood the Khulna markets.
On August 3, a mobile court in a drive in a outlet of KBC Agro Limited, an edible oil and various food manufacturing company, at Dhamrai in the capital seized about 2000 tons of banned pig meat, bone and fat worth 11 crore taka. The factory was fined Tk 75 lakh and sealed.
Executive Magistrate Sarwar Alam said, “The company named KBC Agro (Pvt) Limited Health Care imported pig fat from Hong Kong for manufacturing soybean oil in September last year. Besides, they were manufacturing and marketing fish and chicken fodder using the same ingredient. Being informed we found the evidence of the charges.”
Besides, the High Court ordered withdrawal of 52 consumer goods from the market on May 12 which failed BSTI test. At the same time, the court ordered Safe Food Authority and National Consumer Rights Protection Directorate to take effective measures against those who are still selling these food items and supply.
The High Court bench comprising Justice Sheikh Hasan Arif and Justice Rajik Al Jalil in their observation said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government should wage a war against food adulteration.
The biggest wholesale shop of the region – Borobazar, various departmental stores and the shops at the lanes, by-lanes and the locality are flooded with these banned products.
On June 11, in a notification BSTI instructed the companies to withdraw 22 products from the market within 72 hours.
After banning 52 products, 22 more items were banned in the first phase due to low-quality, but these food stuffs are being sold in the markets of Khulna region.
The 22 products include Pran Dairy premium brand ghee, spices of Square Food and Beverage and salts of various companies.
Besides, BSTI has cancelled the licenses of powdered turmeric of Three Star Brand of Three Star Flower Mills and Khushboo Brand ghee of Agro-Organic for being low-quality. However, these goods were on sale in Khulna markets.
SM Nazimul Islam, Deputy Director of Khulna divisional office of National Consumer Protection Directorate, said, “ The companies concerned whose products were banned by the court, have been asked to withdraw their items from the market. Drives will be conducted against them if these items are found in the markets.”
Polash Mahmud, Executive Secretary of Conscious Consumer Society (CCS) who filed more than one writ with the court for ensuring safe food items, said, “We are continuing movement for ensuring safe food products across the country but it is regretting that my city has been beset with goods banned by the court.”
“Everyone must realise that if gunshot is fired, then only one person dies while the nation faces premature death due to adulterated food items,” he added.
Advocate Enayet Ali, President of Consumers Association of Bangladesh Khulna district unit, said, “The court said that Bangladesh has turned into a country unfit to live in regards to food safety. The state has failed to ensure our food safety.”
Sylhet, Aug 22 (UNB) – With its abundance of manpower, cheap and easily available, conventional wisdom has always dictated that any productive economic activity in Bangladesh has to be labour-intensive, low-skilled, and thus add little value (low ‘value-added’).
This holds true for pretty much the entire economy, but perhaps nowhere more so than the still vital agriculture sector - the largest employment sector in the country that provides employment for about 41 percent of the labour force, according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey 2015-16.
That number however is dwindling, having been as high as 63 percent just about a decade earlier, and is estimated by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to come down to 36 percent by 2020.
In view of the generational shift that sees less and less of the country’s youth interested in entering the agri-economy, even as the challenge of increasing food production for a growing population remains, a decision was taken at the start of 2019 to frame, for the first time, a policy on agriculture mechanisation.
An expert panel convened by the Agriculture Ministry has already submitted the draft of the policy, that aims to “increase farm productivity by speeding up the process of adoption of low-cost but efficient machinery at growers’ level.”
Yet even before the policy has been officially adopted, a farming community in Bishwanath upazila in Sylhet has stolen a march on the authorities by taking the path to mechanisation on their own initiative.
Much of what the government envisions for the agri-sector as a whole has already been implemented in Bishwanath, where they are already reaping the benefits in terms of falling costs, increased efficiency and bigger yields afforded by the use of machines such as the rice transplanter.
Upazila Agriculture Office sources said that there are eight rice transplanter machines in Bishwanath. The farmers took advantage of the 70 percent government subsidy facility for expansion of machinery in agriculture.
Although some mechanisation in various processes has existed in Bangladesh (e.g. upto 95 percent of land is tilled by power tillers and tractors), it is particularly the adoption of potentially game-changing machines like the transplanter that the government now wants to encourage. Department of Agriculture Extension figures indicate just 1 percent of planting is done using machines at present.
In one estimate, a rice transplanter increases the approximate area that a person can plant in a day by almost 15 times.
“Not only that the technology is being used in all the agricultural works including making seedbed, producing seed, sowing, harvesting and threshing of paddy, and collecting stalk to cultivate as per demand at lower cost and lesser time.”
Jaber Hossain, a farmer of village Alapur of the upazila, said, “I sowed rice seed on about 15 acres of land during last boro season and harvested rice using a Combined Harvester Machine after getting training from Agriculture Machinery Testing and Training Centre under Farm Mechanisation project.”
“Using the CHM has been a boon for me. I have benefitted by spending less money and also less time, which is also equal to more money,” he said, adding that non-arable land would reduce and demand for using agricultural machinery would increase immensely if the growers get training on using the machines.
Monohor Hossain Munna, Convener of Bishwanath Sadar Union Juba League and himself a farmer said, “I have sowed the paddy seed using rice transplanter for the first time.”
“I have sowed the seed of aman paddy on one and a half acres of land using transplanter. This year I will sow seeds of aman paddy on five acres of land using this machine. I am hopeful that the yield would be better than in the past,” he added excitedly.
Upazila Agriculture Officer Ramjan Ali noted that food production would have to almost doubled by 2030 in accordance with the government’s vision., towards which all agencies of the state are working according to a plan.