Agriculture under threat due to lack of accredited laboratories
In the absence of independent authorities and accredited laboratories, imported food grains and seeds can threaten the agricultural system of the country. Added to that, dealing with the problems caused by climate change, including post-harvest losses, storage and distribution of agricultural products, ensuring food security for an increasingly large population on shrinking arable land has emerged as a major challenge for Bangladesh's agriculture.
Agricultural experts said that agricultural products are being imported from abroad for the resources of the growing population, while grain seeds are also being imported. The supply of indigenous seeds in the market is very less. Earlier, locally grain seeds were available in the markets, but now they are scarce. Not being able to meet the demand in domestic production, high-yielding varieties of seeds and agricultural products are being imported from China, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Italy, Egypt and other countries.
Several officials of the Directorate of Agricultural Extension, who did not wish to be named, said that although we import agricultural products from different countries of the world for our needs, we always give importance to the matter of collecting samples of incoming agricultural and agricultural products and analyzing the harmful insects and diseases properly and issuing clearance through laboratory tests. As a result, there is a danger of various harmful insects and pathogens of crops from abroad spreading in the country. As a result, crop production can be severely disrupted by an entirely new type of pest attack.
Abu Nasser Khan, chairman of the Save the Environment Movement (PBA), said, "We always work with the environment in mind. In the case of import of agricultural products or seeds, the effectiveness of the quarantine center should be increased with the government. If not, there is a possibility of spreading various diseases.
He also said, many times we see new pests or crop diseases in the crops which we did not see when we were younger. Many times there have been cases of non-harvest of seeds brought from abroad. He also thinks that extensive research is needed on the products before importing any foreign agricultural products.
Experts say that during times of disaster there is a need to import food or agricultural products. Moreover, all crops, fruits and roots are not possible to produce in our country due to climatic conditions. In these cases it is necessary to import agricultural products. Caution is required in both cases. If proper rules are not followed in the import of products, there is a danger of various harmful insects and pathogens spreading in the country. As a result, crop production can be severely disrupted by an entirely new type of pest attack.
According to the sources of the Ministry of Agriculture, the importance of plant pest control in the agricultural extension directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture is immense for the import and export of agricultural products in all countries of the world. Currently there are plant pest control centers in 30 ports in the country. Out of these only 5 ports (Benapole, Hili, Burimari, Chattogram and Dhaka) have facilities for seed testing. Most of the remaining 25 do not have this service.
Former Director General of Agriculture Extension Directorate Md. Asadullah said, plant quarantine or plant quarantine is a legal measure to prevent the penetration and spread of destructive insects and disease germs transported with imported products within the country or from our country to other countries. About 92 percent of Bangladesh's imports and exports take place through the seaport, Chattogram. Clearance is given only if it is deemed appropriate to issue clearance through laboratory tests and proper monitoring of harmful pests and diseases by collecting and analyzing samples of agriculture and agricultural products coming from abroad.
In this regard, Deputy Director (Import) of Agriculture Extension Directorate (Plant Control Wing) Muhammad Liaquat Hussain Khan said, we work in two stages of import, one is food crops and the other is seeds. But in case of import of every product we give certain conditions to the importers which they must comply with. In all cases we have to ship or transport the product or seed after mandatory fumigation. In our country actually collect the sample from the port area and culture it (preserved for three days). Product discount is arranged if the test is advanced. He did not take no for an answer on the quality of the laboratory. But it is true that we do not have all the facilities in all centers. There are 5 centers for seed testing.
According to sources, it is becoming difficult to provide food to a large population even with the introduction of optimal utilization of limited agricultural land, increasing intensification of crop cultivation, and improved agricultural management. Bangladesh had to import 1 crore 86 lakh metric tonnes of plants and vegetable products in the last financial year, which is less than half of what it was just five years ago. Moreover, the extent to which we import products, with any product or in any way from abroad, can introduce pests that are harmful to crops into the country, disrupting agricultural production and disrupting food security. Due to wheat blast, the production has decreased by about 3 lakh metric tons and maize yield is less likely to be achieved due to armyworm intrusion.
Those concerned think that due to the agriculture-friendly policies of the present government, the country has achieved great success in the production of grains as well as vegetables and fruits. Currently, Bangladesh ranks third in the world in terms of vegetable production. But even though there is a huge possibility of exporting agricultural products, we are not able to fully utilize that opportunity. Organic Farming/ Contract Farming has not yet spread widely in the production of agricultural products in our country. As a result, poverty is a common feature.
Unregulated pesticides, fertilizers etc. are being used in the production of these products. And without contract farming, there is no record of what inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) are being applied in what quantities and when from the production of these agricultural products to marketing. The agricultural extension directorate collects vegetables from different regions of the country and tests the level of pesticide residue toxicity. But as there is no internationally recognized laboratory, it has not been possible to determine the acceptable MRL or Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) level for the country.
At present there is no accredited laboratory of the Directorate of Agricultural Extension in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a member state of World Trade Organization and it is mandatory for all countries to follow the rules of International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and World Trade Organization (WTO). To follow these rules, all the countries of the world have created separate independent organizations, which did not happen in Bangladesh. As a result, plant pest control activities are not gaining momentum in Bangladesh. Plant pest control authority not created. The main driving force of Bangladesh's economy is agriculture, import-export of agricultural products and lack of international standard laboratories for plant quarantine activities can cause food problems by introducing unknown foreign destructive pathogens at any time.
There is a Plant Protection Laboratory set up at the Central Packing House at Shyampur, Dhaka. It is said that the work of making it an international standard is going on. However, in this case, the opinion of the deputy project director(DPD) of the related project could not be received. Attempts were made to contact DPD Md. Rezaul Karim but no comment was received.