Pumpkin growers upset as buyers scanty in Teesta sands of Lalmonirhat

Pumpkin farmers in Lalmonirhat’s Teesta char (land emerged from riverbed) areas and Madhabpur upazila of Habiganj are facing odds due to transport problem amid the outbreak of Covid-19.

Our Lalmonirhat Correspondent reports:  Kohinoor Begum, a farmer of Char Gobordhan in Lalmonirhat’s Aditmari upazila, harvested about 5,000 pumpkins from four bighas of sandy land in the dried-up bed of the Teesta River.

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The 47-year-old woman had planned to build a new tin-shed house as she expected to get over Tk 2.5 lakh by selling the popular vegetable but the adverse situation due to coronavirus outbreak has ruined her hope.

“In the third week of March, I sold pumpkin at Tk 10-12 per kg in the field but the price came down below half after the shutdown.

“A portion of my cultivation cost of Tk 75,000 was managed with loan taken from NGOs. I sold pumpkin worth only Tk 20,000 and facing problem with the rest due to lack of storage facilities. Now I am worried about recovery of the capital and payment of the loan,” she said.

Nazrul Islam, 62, of the same area spent Tk 90,000 on cultivating pumpkin on five bighas of land but he has to sell the harvested pumpkin below the production cost as there is hardly any buyers from different places including Dhaka.

Farmer Khabir Uddin, 58, of Char Kalmati of Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila said he is in trouble as there is no room in his house for storing thousands of pumpkins harvested from six bighas of char land. 

Vegetable trader Quader Shamsul of Lalmonirhat town said he paid in advance to farmers for cultivating pumpkin in Teesta char but could not buy it for fair prices from them as wholesale buyers from outside are not coming due to the coronavirus situation.

According to the Department of Agricultural Extension in Lalmonirhat, around 5,000 farmers have cultivated pumpkin on more than 30,000 bighas of land in Teesta’s sandy char areas in the district this year.

Aditmari Upazila Agriculture Officer Ali Noor told The Daily Star that the seeds and technical support were provided free of cost for cultivating pumpkin on the sandy ground of the Teesta and yields have been good.

“But the price fall due to coronavirus situation frustrates farmers. However, if they can carefully preserve the pumpkin in the house as per our suggestion, they are expected to get good prices when the situation becomes normal,” he said.

Our Moulvibazar Correspondent adds: A hailstorm on Thursday destroyed vegetables including huge quantities of pumpkin in Madhabpur upazila of Habiganj, adding to the woe of farmers, already affected due to the ongoing lockdown.

This season, different types of vegetables including pumpkin have been cultivated on 1,100 hectares of land in the upazila, mostly in Shahjahanpur, Bahra, Choumuhani, Dharghar, Adair, Chhatiain, Noapara, Baghasura, Bula and Jagdishpur areas.

But no one from outside is coming to buy vegetables during the outbreak of coronavirus, much to the worry of the cultivators of pumpkin and other vegetables.

“Despite low prices, I was selling my pumpkin in the local market as I was desperately trying to get back the capital. But Thursday’s hailstorm dashed the hope,” said Shahadat Mia, a vegetable farmer in the upazila.

Dilshad Mia of Dharghar area said he cultivated pumpkin with loan from an NGO but he is frustrated over the drop in sales of the produce due to the shutdown.

Upazila’s agriculture officer Saiful Islam said, “Demand of pumpkin fell in the local markets due to lack of buyers from outside while most of the crops were destroyed by the hailstorm on Thursday. We will support the affected farmers if there is allocation from the government.”