SLASHING incentives to marginal rice growers both in terms of cash and subsidies for seeds and fertilizer seems ‘impractical and may be counterproductive’, said a report in a local English daily on Monday. It said farmers and agricultural experts have already expressed concern over the decision to reduce the incentives to marginal Aus growers in the current season (2014) raising questions whether the government’s priority on achieving food security at the national level is waning. The agriculture ministry last week approved Tk 30.68 crore for the current Aus season for incentives to farmers down from Tk 43.00 crore last year. This slash in incentives will in turn result in a drop in the number of recipients of incentives to 2,44,600 from 3,32,500 last year. The ministry usually provides incentives to marginal farmers to keep them tied to farming rain fed Aus and overcome its high cost. As news report said each marginal farmer this year would get free of cost 20 kg of urea, 10kg of DAP, 10 kg of MOP fertilizers and 10 kg of Nerica rice seeds and five kg local HYV rice seeds for each bigha of land. They will also get Tk 300 in cash for farming Nerica rice on each bigha of land. But experts fear these would not be enough to sustain the beneficiaries and achieve production targets of the year when at least one lakh farmers would not receive the benefits. Moreover, rent seeking, pilferage and swindling of such benefits by political intermediaries remain the biggest threats. As we know food sustainability is one of our prime goals since independence. We also know that increasing food production and achieving food self-sufficiency needs a highly supportive policy regime above everything. By all counts, the Bangladesh economy is still agri dependent at a time when a steady decline in arable land with a growing population and urbanization is bringing pressure on the land available for farming. Food security is also coming under threat from climate change challenges. The country is importing huge quantities of rice even this year in stark difference to only a few years back when noticeable imports of food grains were not in sight. We are also undergoing a critical time when farmers are inclined towards switching land to other cash crops which fetch them more income. Agriculture is also contributing to one-fifth of the GDP and small farmers make the contribution because our farming is not based on big holdings. We are bewildered as to why the government has taken the critical decision of slashing incentives to those who grow food for the nation while misuse and misappropriation of public money is rather rampant in all fronts marred with high level corruption and irregularities in the government. We suggest that the government should cut unnecessary expenditure in some other areas to keep allocations to marginal farmers unaffected. We hold the view that prudence and far sight should make room when the matter concerns the poor farmers at the grass roots level.