Promoting organic fertilizer in Bangladesh: Challenges and Prospects

March 14th, 2015

The price of cultivation increases at every steps like hiring more labourers, purchasing different inputs like chemical fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation equipment. Even more for chemical fertilizer farmers have to depend on agriculture office and government selected dealers where we stand behind a long queue during planting season. 

soilSo recounted Alauddin Khan, a Bangladeshi small holder, who cultivates some land of his own and some shared with others (New Age, October, 16, 2008). This is the reality for every small holder in Bangladesh.

Around 90% farmers are small holders owning less than 0.2 hectares of land or are landless but feel proud to say they are farmers as they hire land from richer  farmers. Production has tripled and cropping intensity increased from 145% in 1970 to 175% in the year 2000.  Vegetable production has increased five times and Bangladesh holds third position in increasing vegetables  production. However increases over all country’s crops production yet farmers do not get return even their production cost sometimes. In a round table discussion organized by the Prothom Alo, a renowned Bangladeshi Daily News Paper raised the issue of crop pricing for Bangladeshi farmers ( The Daily Prothom Alo, 7 December 2014).

Why do farmers not get prices based on the cost of their labour and input?

Different studies revealed that cultivation of a high yield variety is one of the major areas which ultimately increases production costs as its input intensity is higher than traditional varieties.  Over use of land,  mono cultivation, farmers’ ignorance about land and input ratios like  fertilizer, pesticides and water use and lack of understanding what a minimum requirements of ingredients of soil should have are some reasons according to soil and agricultural scientists.

Standard soil should have a minimum of 3.5% organic matters but in most areas of Bangladesh this is  between 1- 1.7% (4.14 mh) and in some areas (1.09 mc) less than 1%. Therefore 5.23 mc of the total land area has a lower level of organic matters than the minimum requirement.

What are the challenges of promoting organic fertilizer?

In 2014 the Food and Agriculture Program of Practical Action Bangladesh conducted a study of organic fertilizer promotion in Bangladesh.  One of the objectives of that multidisciplinary research was to identify the status of knowledge in the area. It revealed major challenges from different stakeholders’ perspectives. There was a lack of understanding of the requirements of soil and soil fertility testing.  Organic fertilizer works slowly on soil and its productive efficiency is lower than chemical fertilizer, which is costly.  Organic fertilizer production costs are higher, very few companies produce organic fertilizer and some of its quality is questionable. The government provides a higher subsidy for chemical fertilizer that makes more vested interest so that disparity exists regarding the political economy of fertilizer policy and  promotion. Entrepreneurs and investors lack knowledge and understanding about the market promotion and assessment of market demands, and policy barriers and policy support are major issues.(See table:1)

Table: 1 Farmers comparative narrative between two types of fertilizers

Serial Narrative of fertilizer Organic Chemical
1 Keeps soil soft More Rather Negative effect ( Hard)
2 Water preservation More Negative ( Dried )
3  Paste control More Less
4 Food value Keep intrinsic taste Taste reduce
6 Crops preference Vegetables Paddy
7 Required amount More Less
8 Market availability and price Non available Low price and available

Prospects of organic fertilizer

Gradually urbanization is increasing in Bangladesh, around 30% of people live in urban areas. Approximately 16,380 tons per day of waste is generated in the urban areas of Bangladesh. If we can reuse some of this as an ingredient of organic fertilizer production, this may reduce the cost of raw materials on one side and on the other hand relieve the burden of improper waste dumping.

According to organic fertilizer entrepreneurs, vegetable growers are major clients of organic fertilizer users. Vegetable production has been increasing in Bangladesh along with exports of vegetables to gulf areas. Vegetable consumption has increased from 42 grams per head in 1994 to 70 grams per head in 2013. According to WHO, the per day per person vegetable consumption should be 225 gram. Income, literacy and health and nutrition awareness and the overall living standard of people has been improving. Besides, the choices of affluent people have widened. Some upper income groups both in rural and urban areas are becoming interested in organic foods and Bangladeshi vegetable growers can export their crops and fine rice to European and North American markets if they can produce organic vegetables and get a favorable policy enabling environment from the government.

National Extension Policy, Bio diversity policy, Bangladesh Bank CSR policy and even UN Sustainable Development Goals are expected to endorse a development target for all nations in favor of organic fertilizer from September 2015. Adequate knowledge, policy and incentives for promotion are needed to produce, market and use of organic fertilizer in Bangladesh.

One response to “Promoting organic fertilizer in Bangladesh: Challenges and Prospects”

  1. Khondaker snigdha anam Says:

    I am a student of botany from govt titumir college.i want to do something about the wastage manegment and I am thinking about to produce compost fertilizer from daily can I easily handle it,and if I want to spread the scope of this fertilizer among the farmers ,can I get any help of Govt. Organization?

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