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Impacts of Coronavirus: Gaibandha farmers incur losses as chilli prices fall

  • Published at 11:38 am April 24th, 2020
Dhaka Tribune

'A kilogram of chilli used to go for Tk25 to Tk30 in the retail market and now it’s only Tk5'

Despite bumper production of chilli in char areas of Gaibandha, farmers are incurring losses as the price has dropped significantly in the local markets of the district due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Prices of chilli are as low as Tk5 per kg and a maximum of Tk10 per kg in the local markets amid adequate supply as the fear over coronavirus outbreak has kept customers and wholesale traders in their homes.

Spice manufacturing companies like Pran-RFL Group, Square Group and ACI Ltd, along with traders from different areas in the country would usually come to buy chillies from farmers at the field, said local growers, adding that but now, no traders were visiting the area due to coronavirus fear.

Chilli farmers are incurring a loss of Tk2,000 to Tk5,000 on each bigha of chilli field, said farmers and sources from the local Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).

Around half of the green chilli in Gaibandha has been cultivated in Phulchhari upazila due to greater availability of char lands which is highly suitable for chilli farming. The rest of the spice was cultivated in other six upazilas of the district.  Chilli has been cultivated on 12,787 bigha (approx. 4,300 acres) this season in the district.

DAE Deputy Director Md Masudur Rahman said after cultivating chilli in November and December, farmers could secure a yield of around 65 maunds per bigha. “Farmers have spent around Tk17,000 on each bigha, and at the current market price they are incurring a loss of Tk5,000 per bigha.” 

Farmer Abul Hashem, of Bagbarichar village, said: “A kilogram of chilli used to go for Tk25 to Tk30 in the retail market and now it’s only Tk5. I have cultivated chilli on eight bigha and spent Tk1 lakh this season. 

"I had managed to sell some of the chillies at a fair price before the coronavirus pandemic and got back half of the money I had invested. Now I am in trouble with the rest of the chilli.”

Echoing similar sentiment, farmers Khoybor Hossain and Habibur Rahman from Khatiamari village, said large spice processing companies could not purchase chilli from them because of the countrywide shutdown. 

Chilli is now being sold directly to consumers which led the price fall, added the farmers.

On a field visit, this correspondent found plenty supply available at local wholesale markets in Phulchhari, Sadullapur and Sadar upazilas, but traders say they are not getting customers.

Faridul Islam, a trader from a wholesale market in Gaibandha town, said: “We sell chilli after collecting it from char areas. But this season we are not getting buyers as wholesalers could not get here because of the lockdown.” 

Gaibandha Deputy Commissioner Md Abdul Matin said: “Upazila administration have been buying vegetables directly from the farmers at a fair price and in order to donate them to local unemployed and marginalized people. The initiative will continue.” 

"We are also making arrangements so that farmers can sell their produce to wholesalers from Dhaka,” he added.

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