Most Bangladeshis earn their livings directly or indirectly from agriculture. Rice and jute are the primary crops; wheat is assuming greater importance; and tea is grown in hilly regions of the northeast. Bangladesh’s fertile soil and normally ample water supply yield three rice crops in many areas. Through better flood control and irrigation measures, more intensive use of fertilizers and high-yielding seed varieties, increased price incentives, and improved distribution and rural credit networks, Bangladesh’s labor-intensive agricultural sector has achieved steady increases in foodgrain production.
Foodgrain production in 1992 was about 20 million metric tons, a 5% increase over the previous year. Rice is Bangladesh’s principal crop, although yields per hectare are among the lowest in Asia. While rice output rose 3.2% in 1992, much recent growth in foodgrain output can be attributed to the irrigated spring crop, which has increased steadily due to the greater availability of fertilizer and irrigation equipment. Wheat production also is expected to rise from 900,000 to about 1 million metric tons in 1992. Jute, which historically has accounted for the bulk of Bangladesh’s export receipts, faces an uncertain future due to competition from synthetic fiber substitutes. Fishing, especially for shrimp, has become an increasingly important source of export earnings.