by Lutful Haider Shoroz in Montreal;

Like always her son had planted a commonly sowed hybrid variety of rice in his low-lying field in Bagerhat. During the time of harvest Fatema noticed that three plants were remarkably different from all others.

These three plants were taller and instead of one sheaf in each stem they had three sheaves. Fatema cajoled her son to save the grains as seed. Next year seeds from the three plants were sown to produce more seeds and the following year Fatema’s son had planted the seeds in much larger area and harvested more than double the amount of rice he would have usually harvested. Usually each high yielding variety of rice has one sheaf that carries 250 to 300 grain of rice. But the new variety has three sheaves on one stem with 250 to 300 grains of rice on each sheaf.

Hence the yield of new variety of rice presently named “Fatema rice”, doubles and in cases triples in the same area of land. The new variety has sturdy tall stem rendering it resistant to swaying in the wind.  Because of taller stem it also provides more fodder for livestock. The news of the new variety spread like wildfire.  Presently farmers from all over Bangladesh are frantically looking for seeds to plant the new variety in their land.

Agri-scientists from Bangladesh Rice Researched Institute have begun their study of the genetic code of Fatema rice. Should this rice be planted extensively, Bangladesh will not only achieve food autarky but also will have significant surplus to export and earn billions of dollar.

In our university days, just after liberation, when we studied Bangladesh economics, we were taught that Bangladesh’s yearly need for rice was around 14 million tons but in a good year Bangladesh produced nearly 13 million tons, hence experienced a perennial shortage, resulting in low to high intensity famine during lean period of the year depending on the harvest.

Mercifully, due to toil of Bangladesh’s hard-working farmers and introduction of new technologies and proper governmental policy, presently Bangladesh produces 34.1 million tons of rice and is able feed its people despite the fact that the population had more than doubled since the liberation.

If the promise of Fatema rice holds, then Bangladesh is looking forward to a golden future in agricultural sector.  One may be curious to ask, how this transpired! Was it a divine play or odd genetic mutation for no obvious discernible reason?  One can also engage in intractable debate whether information code can arise from inert matter and vary whimsically serendipitously.

Whatever may be the case this is very welcome news that every Bangladeshi should be happy about.

Another very hopeful news comes from sub-Redddit (link: ttps://v.redd.it/9oq4dntgl4661) regarding the invention of Bangladesh’s scientist Mubarak Ahmad Khan.  Mr. Khan has invented polymer from jute fibre that is completely bio-degradable and is perfect alternative to plastic bags.

In the video that you can see following the link mentioned above, there is a demonstration of the product.  If the product is cost effective then it will have staggering impact.  The moribund jute industry will suddenly get the jolt of life it desperate needs.

In today’s world where global warming is primary concern of everyone an alternative to plastic products would be immensely welcomed. Plastic bags are one of the major pollutants in the environment.  Since jute is natural product which is completely bio-degradable, it will be a game changer. Should the product meet both price and utility expectations, Bangladesh will substantially benefit from the invention as Bangladesh is the largest producer of jute in the world. Let’s hope for the best.

Lutful Haider is a former economics post-graduate from the Dhaka University, analyst and columnist.

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