BANGLADESH'S strategy for agricultural production in the 1990s is based on the rapid spread of high technology. The aim is to usher in sustained growth in agriculture at rates outstripping population growth. The strategy envisages a concerted move away from higher risk monsoon-based agriculture to relatively lower risk irrigation agriculture. The resources to achieve this will come from a rapid expansion of minor irrigation, stimulation of crop diversification and the unleashing of competitive market forces. Agriculture is the principal economic activity in Bangladesh and acts as the major source of economic growth and poverty alleviation. Agriculture's contribution to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) was 37.5 per cent in 1990-91. Currently, it employs about 75 per cent of the civilian labour force and accounts for about 60 per cent of export earnings. About 74 per cent of the land area of Bangladesh is under crop production. The total cropped area amounts to about 35 million acres. Crop production accounts for about 78 per cent of the agricultural value added. Livestock and poultry raising account for 7.6 per cent of agricultural incomes, while fisheries and forestry make up 7.5 and 6.6 per cent respectively. The agriculture growth rate was 2.4 per cent in 1991-92, compared to 2.7 per cent in 1990-91 and 2.5 per cent over the third five-year plan from 1985-90. However, a considerable increase in food grain production has been recorded during the last decade. Production was 18.86 million and 19.32 million tonnes, respectively, in 1990-91 and 1991-92, compared to about 15 million tonnes in 1980-81. Expansion of irrigation, use of improved seed varieties, changes in cropping patterns and sequences, crop diversification, and use of agro-chemicals are among the main factors that have contributed to the increase in food grain production. Food grain production grew by 5.6 per cent in 1989-90. But this could not be sustained in 1990-91 due to a number of unprecedented calamities, including the devastating cyclone and tidal surge of April 29, 1991. In addition, the Gulf War adversely affected fuel prices and hence irrigation and transportation costs. Exports of vegetables and fruits to Gulf countries were hampered because of the war. Overall growth in food grain production in 1992-93 is expected to be 4.45 per cent above the production level of 1991-92. Fertiliser sales/distribution increased from 830,000 tonnes in 1981-82 to 2.28 million tonnes in 1991-92. This was due to the new fertiliser policies of the government, which were aimed at establishing competitive distribution and sales markets. The policies have made fertilisers conveniently available to farmers throughout the country and stabilised their prices to some extent. Recent policy changes (the withdrawal of a subsidy from fertilisers and opening the fertiliser trade to the private sector) have accelerated fertiliser distribution. Minor irrigation policy changes in the late 1980s boosted private sales of minor irrigation equipment and resulted in accelerated expansion of irrigated areas in that period and the early 1990s. In 1990-91, the area of minor irrigation was about 7.5 million acres, which was 37 per cent of the total arable land. Intensive HYV (high yielding variety) seeds have contributed to changes in cropping patterns and re-allocation of cropped areas. The HYV modern seeds are a major component of the high-technology seed-water-fertiliser package. Over the years, HYV practices did not get adequate momentum due to various constraints and a public sector monopoly in the modern seed sector. Recent policy changes have, however, led to some intensification of private sector involvement in the production, import and distribution of modern and HYV seeds. It is estimated that HYVs account for more than 46 per cent of aggregate rice, almost 100 per cent of both rain-fed and irrigated wheat, about 63 per cent of potato, 73 per cent of jute and almost 60 per cent of sugar-cane crops. Currently, the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) provides about five per cent of required HYV paddy seeds, 18 per cent of wheat seeds, 10 per cent of jute and vegetable seeds and five per cent of potato seeds.