Journal Issue
Finance & Development, March 1975

Bank Group activity: More food through thought

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Published Date:
March 1975
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Agricultural growth efforts in Bangladesh

As the figures for total World Bank and International Development Association (IDA) lending for agricultural projects in general, and for rural development projects in particular, continue to mount in recent years, so too has the Bank’s interest in and support of agricultural research increased.

Ninety-one Bank- and IDA-assisted development projects which have an agricultural research component were listed in an October 22,1974 paper prepared for delegates attending the yearly “pledging session” of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research by the Bank’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department. Four additional projects—only one of which has reached the approval state at present—were listed as being wholly in support of strengthening national agricultural research capabilities.

Seventy-five of the 91 projects with agricultural research components have been implemented since 1970. The range of research activities covered by them is wide: farming systems, livestock, fodder foods, fruits, spices, and food grains. The amounts of the project component devoted to research varies from a low of $18,000 within a livestock development project in Guatemala, to almost $3 million for the establishment of a main experimental center in southern Sudan and seven other crop trial stations in the region, to test the adaptability of high-yielding varieties of maize, sorghum, groundnuts, soybeans, and sesame to local conditions.

Bangladesh Cereal Seeds Project

Though each project bearing an agricultural research component has its special characteristics, the research component included in the Bangladesh Cereal Seeds project is representative of the scope and purpose of the Bank and IDA’s involvement.

The major purpose of the $7.5 million IDA-financed Cereal Seeds project (approved in June 1973) involved the establishment of a modern seeds industry which would produce 12,000 tons of high-yielding rice and wheat seeds annually. A little more than $1 million of the total credit amount was devoted to the expansion of the five-year old Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), at Joydebpur.

More than 50 scientists—agronomists, entomologists, plant pathologists and physiologists, soil chemists, agricultural engineers and economists, and rice breeders—who work at the Institute waste much of their working day commuting between Dacca and Joydebpur, a 50-mile round trip. IDA funds are now helping build staff housing for the junior scientists working at the Institute, which will preclude this waste of time.

In the five years since it started operating, the Institute has already come up with some advances over the lines of new, high-yielding varieties of rice produced at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at Los Banos in the Philippines. And, though only about 11 per cent of the country’s rice fields are planted with the new varieties, their worth have already been amply proved. In the 1972-73 harvest, these fields yielded slightly more than a quarter of the nation’s rice crop.

But 11 per cent is not enough—especially for Bangladesh which must import about 2 million tons of food grains yearly, at a cost of about $500 million, to feed its 75 million people.

And there are other problems. About 2 million acres of paddy land in the country are only inches above sea level. The land is saline. No high-yielding varieties exist which will thrive in this kind of soil condition. BRRI rice breeder, Mortuza A. Choudhury, says that any kind of breakthrough in developing saline-tolerant, high-yielding rice varieties will not come “in less than three years”; no artificial crosses between high-yielding varieties and saline-tolerant (but low-yielding) local varieties have yet been made. BRRI scientists are now only in the process of screening the local varieties to test for tolerance to salinity.

In January of this year the Institute’s Board of Governors gave the go-ahead for the establishment of a substation in the southeastern part of the country for evolving salt-tolerant paddy varieties suitable for some of the country’s soil areas. IDA money will help build staff housing, furnish office and laboratory equipment, raise farm buildings, provide land development, dig irrigation ditches, buy tube wells, and furnish transportation for this substation.

Six million acres of deep-water rice are planted annually in Bangladesh. Such rice has been known to survive 20 feet high flood waters if the flooding is of a gradual nature—about two inches a day. However, floods in Bangladesh are often more dramatic in nature, and the waters have been known to rise by as much as four feet daily, with resultant loss of produce.

Goal: two tons an acre

Yields of local deep-water rice are low—slightly less than one ton an acre. Dr. Choudhury believes that in three years’ time, scientists at BRRI may be able to come up with a high-yielding variety that will produce as much as two tons an acre.

World Bank loans approved during second quarter of fiscal 1975(ending December 31, 1974)
CountryPurposeAmount ($ millions)
Dominican RepublicTourism21.0
Egypt (2)**Suez Canal Rehabilitation, imports85.0
El Salvador*Sites and Services2.5
Indonesia (2)Water supply. Development Finance Company64.5
Ivory CoastCocoa20.0
LiberiaDevelopment Finance Company4.0
Madagascar ***Forests6.75
MoroccoDevelopment Finance Company30.0
Nigeria (5)Livestock, agricultural development (4)107.5
Philippines (3)Shipping, Development Finance Company, irrigation67.0
SwazilandWater supply and sewerage3.5
Tanzania1 mports30.0
Trinidad & TobagoDevelopment Finance Company5.0
TunisiaIrrigation rehabilitation12.2
Yugoslavia (2)Harbor bar, Dubrovntk infrastructure50.0
Total loans during second quarter of fiscal 1975601.95
Total loans during first half of fiscal 19751,209.85

With a $6 million 1DA credit

With a $35 million IDA credit

With a $6.75 millio IDA credit

With a $6 million 1DA credit

With a $35 million IDA credit

With a $6.75 millio IDA credit

IDA Credits during second quarter of fiscal 1975(ending December 31, 1974)
CountryPurpose($ millions)
Egypt**1 mports35.0
El Salvador*Sites and services6.0
India (4)Fertilizer, dairy (2), drought-prone areas170.1
Total Credits during second quarter of fiscal 1975285.85
Total credits during first half of fiscal 1975555.05

With a $2.5 million Bank loan

With a $35 million Bank loan

With a $6.75 million Bank loan

With a $2.5 million Bank loan

With a $35 million Bank loan

With a $6.75 million Bank loan

IDA money will build, equip, and furnish a substation for testing deep-water varieties. Today, all such local varieties which can sucessfully resist flooding must be tested at IRRI facilities in the Philippines.

Two other BRRI substations will be aided by the IDA credit: one at Dinajpur, which will concentrate on developing cold-resistant rice varieties, and one at Comilla, which will work on rice suitable for growing in all seasons.

“We have really only begun,” says the Director of the Institute, Dr. M. Amirul Islam. “Before, we didn’t even know the dimensions of our problems. We had only loose ideas. Then, we had to sit down and think, put down on paper what were the constraints, what were the best ways to overcome them. We had to make believers of ourselves—we had to realize fully what we were up against; we had to know which way to go. We now have identified the problems; we understand them. For the future, we must overcome them.”

If the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute can overcome some of the country’s food production problems, it will have achieved that in part because of the $1 million component of the $7.5 million Cereal Seeds project financed by IDA.

Peter C. Muncie


This 69-page booklet describes ongoing research in the portfolio in eight functional categories: Development Policy and Planning; International Trade and Finance; Agriculture and Rural Development; Industry; Transportation; Public Utilities; Urbanization and Regional Development; and Population and Human Resources. A new feature is an index identifying all projects pertaining to specific countries.

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