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The Financial Express

Farmers suffer for low demand, supply crunch

YASIR WARDAD | Published: April 02, 2020 09:32:11 | Updated: April 02, 2020 19:05:52


- Focus Bangla file photo - Focus Bangla file photo

Supply chain disruptions, coupled with low demand, have put a strain on farmers following the ongoing surreal situation amid the coronavirus pandemic, insiders said.

As Bangladesh has almost been on a lockdown as part of fighting the novel virus, demand for dairy, poultry, onion, aquaculture and vegetable drops significantly.

Dhaka's consumers, however, claimed they were not properly getting some products like milk, fish, egg and loose flour.

Dairy farmers in Pabna, Natore, Sirajganj, Jashore, Khulna and Narail hubs are incurring massive losses as companies, households and sweetshops squeezed purchase more than by 80 per cent for weeks.

Insider said liquid raw milk prices dropped to just Tk 20-28 a litre in the districts against Tk 36-52 depending on fat percentage.

Bangladesh Dairy Farmers' Association secretary Md Shah Imran said more than 0.5-million dairy farms produce an estimated 2.2 million litres of milk a day.

Of the amounts, 80 per cent are sold locally to households and sweetmeat shops, he told the FE.

Companies like Milk Vita, Brac Dairy, Pran, Akij and Aftab also buy 10 to 15 per cent of the milk.

Mr Imran said 1.4-1.5 million litres of milk now remain unsold daily, causing a loss of Tk 600 million per day due to lockdown.

Companies have also squeezed their purchase by more than 70 per cent amid low demand.

Marginal farmers are witnessing severe losses due to the fall in demand, he mentioned.

The business leader said most of the farms might be closed if they do not get subsidies from the government.

Meanwhile, the FE has found scarcity of liquid pasteurised milk in groceries in many places in the city in the past few days.

Grocers said company sales representatives were not supplying milk in real time.

Asked, Milk Vita spokesperson Shuchisman Biswas, said they have squeezed production to 60,000-70,000 litres a day from 0.11 million litres following a drop in demand.

Their target customers are based in Dhaka and Chattogram where demand has declined significantly.

A number of Milk Vita van pullers have left the city that caused a supply problem in places, Mr Biswas told the FE.

Poultry meat and egg producers are also having hard times against this viral backdrop.

Broiler chicken prices dropped to just Tk 50-54 a kg and farm egg Tk 4.5-5.0 apiece from Tk 115 and Tk 7.5-8.0 respectively at farm level three weeks ago.

According to the Bangladesh Poultry Industries Central Council (BPICC), the industry incurred Tk 12.75 billion in losses in three weeks.

Farmers witnessed losses worth Tk 8.68 billion in broiler and farm egg, Tk 1.11 billion in feed, Tk 2.71 billion in day-old chick (DOC) subsectors.

Naurish Poultry and Hatchery Ltd managing director Samiul Alim said, "Farmers are not interested in taking DOCs even for free when our production cost is Tk 35 per bird."

Companies were destroying eggs of DOC amid a fall in demand, he disclosed.

Mr Alim said hundreds of small and medium-level farmers have already lost half of their investment.

BPICC president Moshiur Rahman said marginal and medium-scale farmers should be compensated to sustain growth of the key protein-supplying sector.

He suggested that the government raise awareness over consuming egg and meat which are necessary to increase the immune system of body to fight COVID-19.

However, farm eggs, which were trading at Tk 4.5-5.0 apiece at farm level, still sell at Tk 8-9.0 in Dhaka, simply cheating consumers.

Onion and summer vegetable growers are also in great difficulty due to the 16-day countrywide holiday.

Jamal Pramanik, a farmer from Rajbari, said onion prices fell to just Tk 13-14 a kg against production costs of Tk 27-28.

Farmers in his locality, Khankhanapur, were counting Tk 5,000-5,500 per bigha of land (33 decimals) for a fall in prices, he added.

However, onion was retailed at Tk 30-45 a kg in Dhaka on Wednesday.

Narayan Chandra Saha, a Shyambazar-based wholesaler, said they have minimised purchase amid a decline in demand.

Most of the city-dwellers have a stockpile of onion which they bought before March 26 fearing any lockdown.

Mr Saha said demand might rise after the consumers' home stocks end.

Only eight trucks from Pabna and Rajbari entered Shyambazar on Wednesday morning against 60-80 trucks on a normal day.

Agronomist Prof Golam Hafeez Kennedy said supplies of products like rice, edible oil, pulses, onion, flour, milk, fish, meat, egg and vegetables should be smooth during any holiday or lockdown.

For smooth supply, he said, farmers should get profits for their produce or it could affect production.

Mr Kennedy suggested the government immediately announce lucrative packages for farmers to safeguard both the peasantry and the consumers during this crisis period.

tonmoy.wardad@gmail.com

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