Coronavirus hits agriculture hard

Crops remain unharvested, unsold, unpreserved 

Ershad Kamol | Published: 00:54, Apr 08,2020


Agricultural activities across the country are being hampered during the harvesting seasons of the boro rice, potato, onion and maize for the scarcity of labourers and diesel as well as limited marketing opportunities amid the coronavirus situation.

Farmers in the country’s seven north-eastern districts, known as the haor region, are in fear of losing their ripe boro paddy to flash floods anytime as they cannot harvest the crop for the scarcity of farm labourers that usually go from other districts.

Boro farmers in Kushtia, Tangail, Munshiganj areas, however, said that they were facing irrigation problem at the final stage of the paddy cultivation for diesel scarcity.

Despite very good potato yields this year, farmers in Munshiganj, Pabna, Bogura, Pabna and Sirajganj said that they were facing difficulty carrying those to cold storages and were also not getting expected price from the limited number of big buyers and traders.

Onion farmers in the greater Faridpur region and maize farmers in the Kushtia region apprehend financial losses as not many traders were approaching them due to the unofficial lockdown.

‘The situation is very alarming and we are trying our level best to support the farmers,’ agriculture minister Mohammad Abdur Razzaque told New Age on Sunday.

‘We will be sending agriculture labourers from different districts to the haor areas soon,’ he said.

The Met Department predicts normal flash floods in the haor region after mid-April. 

‘The paddy is ripening while the time for flash floods from the upstream has also neared. We are in fear of losing our paddy in the filed as happened in 2018,’ said Shanto Talukder, a farmer of Narkila, Sunamganj.

‘We have invested Tk 5 lakh and expect to have 1,500 maunds of paddy,’ he said.

‘Like in the previous years they have booked 60 labourers from Madaripur with advance wages but they are now refusing to go to Sunamganj for the unofficial lockdown’, he said, adding that he has paid them Tk 40,000 in advance.

Department of Agricultural Extension officials expect some 20.40 lakh tonnes of boro paddy output in the seven haor districts, which is a one-tenth of the country’s expected production of 204.06 lakh tonnes this season.

As of Monday, the officials said, the country’s potato growers harvested 97.6 lakh tonnes of the expected 108 tonnes of the crop while some 9.73 lakh tonnes of onion of the expected 23.80 tonnes were harvested.

But farmers of the greater Faridpur region, famous for  onion production, said that they were facing problems to sell their produce despite good production.

‘I am keeping my onion at home as traders are not approaching the growers,’ Shamim Kazi of Nagarkanda, Faridpur, said.

Munshiganj farmer Abul Hossain said that he was facing difficulty taking his potato to cold storage due to the scarcity of labourers and transports, our Munshiganj correspondent reported.

Farmers have to count a 10 times higher cost for labour and transport compared to the normal time, the correspondent added.

Zahid Hasan, a maize cultivator of Kushtia district, told our Kushtia Correspondent that farmers like him could not harvest and sell his crop as labourers refused to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dulal Mondol, a farmer of Mirpur upazila, told the correspondent that farmers like him were facing irrigation problems for unavailability of diesel while the owner of Tamanna Rice Mill in the upazila, Mizanur Rahman, claimed that he could not collect or sell rice for scarcity of trucks.

Bangladesh Krishak Sangram Samity issuing a release on Sunday demanded government support for harvesting, preservation and marketing of the crops.

‘The government must provide them with food and health service,’ reads the release issued by BKSS general secretary Shahjahan Kabir.

Jahangirnagar University economics professor Anu Muhammad criticised the government for ignoring the rights of the farmers, labourers and workers although they were the driving force of the country’s economy.

‘Even in the incentives announced by the prime minister on Sunday, we did not see any package for the farmers or small and medium industry workers,’ he lamented.

Agriculture ministry additional secretary Md Hasanuzzaman Kallol, however, claimed that the government would soon send agriculture labourers to the haor areas from other districts and arrange their accommodation maintaining social distancing.

‘We will also send 200 harvesters,’ he said.

The ministry will also take an initiative to arrange special market places in Rajbari for onion producers, he said, adding that this ministry requested the disaster management ministry to include potato in the relief packages.

State minister for disaster management Md Enamur Rahman said that they were purchasing potato for relief packages to be distributed to the needy people.

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