The small, marginal and landless farmers together account for around 70 to 80 per cent of the country’s food production, said agricultural analysts.
Of them, small farmers who own between 1 to 2.5 acres of land operate around 40 per cent of the total farmland and contribute 50 per cent to the food production, said Prof Abdul Bayes, former director of the Research and Evaluation Division of Brac.
And marginal farmers who own on an average of 50 decimals of land operate nearly 7 per cent of land.
Meanwhile, a section of marginal farmers also grow food by leasing land. So, together with marginal farmers, both landless and marginal farmers operate around 20 per cent of the total cultivable land through leases, according to Bayes.
Bayes, who co-authored the book ‘Rural Transformation: Insights from Bangladesh’ with Mahabub Hossain, said small, marginal and functionally landless farmers operate over 60 per cent of the total cultivated land and contribute to around 80 per cent of the total food output.
The rest 20 per cent output comes from medium and large farms. The medium farmers, who own between more than 2.5 to 4 acres of land, operate 20 per cent of land and the large farmers, who possess more than 4 acres of land, operate around 14 per cent of the land, he said.
Bayes, however, said small and margial farmers mostly produce for their own food security and they usually do not have enough marketable surplus after their home consumtion.
“Large farmers supply bulk of the rice in the market,” he said.
Prof Shamsul Alam, a member of the Planning Commission, said about 85 per cent of local farmers are small farmers.
“So they have a big contribution to ensuring our food security. Relatively, the small farmers with less than one-acre of land produce more than large farmers,” he added.
The views by the economists is reflected in the findings of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In a report last month, the FAO said small family farmers who possess fewer than two hectares of land produce around one-third of the world’s food.
They operate only around 12 per cent of all agricultural land and produce roughly 35 per cent of the world’s food, as per the findings of the study revealed on April 23.
Bayes and Alam said the FAO report would not fully reflect the scenario in Bangladesh, as the definition of small farmers may vary from one country to another.
Even the size of land used by a small farmer in America could be similar to the land of a large farmer in Bangladesh, they observed.
However, small and marginal farmers are the largest contributors to food production in Bangladesh, said Bayes, who also teaches economics at East West University.
The small farmers used their lands more efficiently than others as they have no alternative, he said.
“All members of a small farmer’s family take care of the land they possess and so, their total production stands higher than the large farmers.”
The FAO report titled “Which farms feed the world and have farmlands become more concentrated?” said that there are more than 60 crore family-farms around the world, including Bangladesh.
The family farmers (small and medium farmers) possess between 70 and 80 per cent of the world’s farmland and produce around 80 per cent of the world’s food in value terms, it said.
In the South Asian region, including Bangladesh, small family farms occupy a much larger share of agricultural land than the global average, the UN study shows.
Shamsur Rahman, deputy director of the Department of Agricultural Extension, said there are more than 2.20 crore farmers in Bangladesh.
Small and marginal farmers represent 56 per cent of them.
DAE Director General Md Asadullah said the small, marginal and landless farmers contribute the highest amount of the country’s total food production.