When vegetables growers of Kushtia were passing days in great worries about marketing of the produces, the army came forward to give them relief to some extent by buying vegetable directly from the field.
During a recent visit to Bittipara, Laxmipur and Sheikhpara wholesale markets, the UNB correspondent found that though the wholesale buyers are being profited, the marginal farmers are counting losses. The wholesale buyers come to the markets from Dhaka and collect vegetable.
Due to the coronavirus crisis, there is no option for farmers in the region but to sell vegetables to wholesalers at low prices.
Sources say around 200-250 maunds of eggplant come to the wholesale vegetable markets of Kushtia every day. Local storekeepers and retailers buy a portion of these vegetables. However, the major portion of the vegetables goes to the vegetable market in Kawranbazar.
Eggplant is being sold at a maximum price of Tk 20 per kg in wholesale market. But the same eggplant is being sold at different local markets of Kushtia at the price of Tk 60 per kg.
Meanwhile, cucumbers are being sold at a maximum price of Tk 20-25 per kg in the wholesale market. Before the coronavirus crisis, the wholesale price of cucumber was Tk 30 per kg. At present the retail price of cucumber at the local markets is Tk 35-40 per kg.
Besides, the price of chilli has dropped more than before.
As a result, though the wholesalers and middlemen are being benefitted, there is no profit for marginal farmers.
Razzak Mandal, a wholesaler in Bittipara Bazar, said the vegetable market is now sliding. Besides, the vegetable market fluctuates.
Ensuring food safety
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), eggplant has been cultivated in 1,080 hectares in the district this time. The total production target is 36,994 MT. Besides, cucumber is cultivated on 403 hectares of land. The total production target is 34,009 MT.
Besides, chilli production target has been set at 5,085 MT.
Incentives have been given to farmers affected by coronavirus. Total 13,000 farmers in the district have been given the same amount of seeds and fertilisers for crop production on one bigha of land as well as 30,000 kg of Aus paddy seeds have been distributed among small and marginal farmers, said Shyamal Kumar Biswas, deputy director of DAE.
It is normal that there will be food crisis after any pandemic. He said there is no alternative to increasing production to tackle food crisis.
Army to the rescue
Amid the farmer’s concern about getting fair prices, members of 20 East Bengal Regiment of Bangladesh Army in Jashore Cantonment have taken initiative to buy vegetables from marginal farmers at market prices and distribute them among needy families in different areas.
This activity started from Thursday. As a result, a large number of farmers in the area have benefited and are satisfied with the cash they have received.
Shur Ali, a vegetable farmer from Chithlia village in Chithlia union of Mirpur upazila, said vegetables were being wasted due to lack of proper price.
“We’re receiving fair price from army,” he added.
Sademul, a vegetable farmer from the same village, said he was worried as his pumpkins were unsold. He has been benefitted by the army’s initiatives.
The farmers said this would help them overcome losses.
Major Wahid, involved in vegetable procurement, said farmers could not take their produce to the market because of the coronavirus situation.
“In many places, crops are rotting in the fields due to low number of buyers in the market and sagging prices,” he said, adding that they took the initiative to save marginal farmers from losses.
Vegetables are being procured and taken to Jashore cantonment. Besides, initiatives have been taken to distribute them among the needy people in different areas.