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Bangladesh streamlines agriculture subsidy

Feb 11, 2010

The Bangladeshi government announces a novel agriculture input assistance card that will allow marginal, small and medium farmers to get a cash subsidy. The new system will streamline service delivery, enable automatic cash transfers and reduce misappropriation.

The Bangladeshi government will launch a 7.49 billion taka (107 million US dollars) diesel subsidy program for 9.1 million farmers next Tuesday by introducing the first-ever Agriculture Input Assistance Card.

The program is aimed at streamlining the agriculture subsidy system for increased productivity and checking misappropriation of public funds.

"The cards have already been printed. Once the cards are distributed the farmers can open a bank account with only 10 taka (0.14 US dollars). And the cash subsidy, meant for irrigation assistance, will automatically be transferred to the farmers' accounts," Agriculture Secretary CQK Mustaq Ahmed said Wednesday.

Of the total 18.2 million farmers of Bangladesh, 9.1 million marginal, small and medium farmers will get the cash subsidy under the program.

Those who own less than 0.2 hectare of land are marginal farmers, from 0.2 hectare to 1 hectare are small, from 1 to 3 hectares are medium and above 3 hectares are big farmers, according to the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The number of marginal and small farmers is 8.3 million. Each of them will get 800 taka (11.4 U.S. dollars) while each of the 800,000 medium farmers will get 1000 taka (14.3 U.S. dollars) as subsidy this season, an official said.

"No matter how much land they are cultivating for boro (winter paddy), they will get the amount," the official said.

Due to the introduction of the Agriculture Input Assistance Card, there is no scope of fund misappropriation as had been experienced in the previous years, the Agriculture Secretary said.

The card system has been introduced, as the subsidy provided by the government has not always reached the genuine farmers. Middlemen or non-farmers embezzled a significant portion of the government assistance.

The Agriculture Input Assistance Card will contain all the information about card holders the amount of total land, under- cultivation land, crops they produce during different seasons and seeds and fertilisers they need, he said.

"This season the farmers are getting diesel subsidy and later the subsidy might be given for other inputs too," Agriculture Secretary Mustaq Ahmed said, adding that a database of the farmers has been prepared.

"In a word, this is expected to bring a revolutionary change in the agriculture sector," he said.

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