The program started on Thursday and as a result, a large number of farmers in the area have benefited and are satisfied with the cash they have received
Vegetable growers in Kushtia were passing their days worried about not getting fair prices for their produce at wholesale markets before Bangladesh army came to their rescue by purchasing vegetables directly from the fields.
During a recent visit to Bittipara, Lakshmipur and Sheikhpara wholesale markets, this correspondent found that while the wholesale buyers from Dhaka were profiting, the local marginal farmers were counting losses.
Due to the restrictions in place on travelling during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, farmers in the region are left without any options other than to sell off their vegetables to wholesalers at lower prices.
Sources say around 200-250 maunds of eggplant reach the wholesale vegetable markets of Kushtia every day. Local storekeepers and retailers buy only a portion of these vegetables, while the majority of the vegetables goes to the vegetable markets in Dhaka's Karwan Bazar.
Eggplant is being sold at a maximum price of Tk20 per kg in wholesale markets, while the same eggplant is sold at different local markets at Tk60 per kg.
Meanwhile, cucumbers are being sold at a maximum price of Tk20-25 per kg in wholesale markets, while the retail price of cucumber at the local markets is Tk35-40 per kg.
As a result, though the wholesalers and middlemen are benefitting, there is no profit for marginal farmers.
Army to the rescue
Amid the farmer’s concern about not getting fair prices, members of 20 East Bengal Regiment of Bangladesh Army of Jessore Cantonment have taken an initiative to buy vegetables from marginalized farmers of Kushtia at market prices and distribute them among needy families in the region.
The program started on Thursday and 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 union of Mirpur upazila, said earlier vegetables were rotting due to lack of proper price at wholesale markers. “Now, we’re receiving a fair price from the army,” he added.
Md Sademul, a vegetable farmer from the same village, said he was worried about his unsold pumpkins. But, now he says has been benefitted by the army’s initiatives and they helped him overcome his losses.
Major Wahid, involved in vegetable procurement, said farmers could not take their produce to the market because of the restrictions in place on travel due to the coronavirus situation.
“In many places, crops are rotting in the fields due to a 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 Jessore cantonment. Besides, initiatives have been taken to distribute them among the needy people in the region.
Ensuring food safety
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), eggplant has been cultivated in 1,080 hectares, with a production target of 36,994 tons. While cucumber is cultivated on 403 hectares, with the total production target of 34,009 tons. Besides, chilli production target was set at 5,085 tons.
Incentives were given to farmers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. A total of 13,000 farmers in the district were given seeds and fertilisers for crop production on one bigha land while 30,000 kg of Aush paddy seeds were distributed among marginalized farmers, said Shyamal Kumar Biswas, deputy director of DAE.
“A food crisis is expected right after any pandemic. Therefore there is no alternative to increase in crop production to tackle the food crisis,” he added.