• Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022
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Covid-19 fallout: Floating guava market of Jhalakathi takes a dip in pandemic

  • Published at 07:51 pm August 2nd, 2021
The floating guava market at Bhimruli over the Kritipasha canal in Jhalakathi is one of the country's most scenic markets Dhaka Tribune

Thousands of farmers in the Barisal, Jhalakathi and Pirojpur districts rely on the seasonal fruit for an income

Thousands of buyers and sellers once used to congregate in Bhimruli village, a famous floating guava wholesale market in Jhalakathi Sadar upazila, but the trend has changed ever since the government began imposing a series of limitations on public movement owing to the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. 

According to traders, lockdown measures have prevented guava farmers from receiving reasonable pricing even though thousands of farmers in the Barisal, Jhalakathi and Pirojpur districts rely on the seasonal fruit for income.

The lockdown has also harmed the local tourism business, as people are unable to visit the region due to the present crisis.

During the peak harvesting season, no fewer than thousands of people visited the orchards and markets each day and locals could earn money by operating boats, hotels and restaurants.

But once a bustling agricultural area, it has now turned into a ghost town.

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According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), guava cultivation is widespread in Barisal, Jhalakathi and Pirojpur districts. Guava cultivation is spread across 3,345 hectares of land throughout the region, having an annual production of 31,747 tons.

At the national level, production has declined at an average of about 10,000 tons each year since FY2017-18, when 241,504 tons of guava were harvested from 11,365 acres of land. In FY2019-20, 226,028 tons of guava were produced on 67,344 acres of land.

As guava farmer Sunil Haldar Sanu stated: “The orchards did not produce much this year. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the farmers could not take proper care of their orchards and every orchard was affected by diseases.

“Besides, since wholesalers are unable to visit local markets, the price per maund of guava has come down to Tk400-500 when it was previously about Tk800-1,000,” he added.

Jahar Mal, general secretary of the Guava Growers' Association, said, “The yield of guava fell 40% this year compared to the last few years, costing hundreds of workers their jobs.”

Fazlul Haque, deputy director of the district DAE, said: “Cyclone Bulbul and Amphan had adversely affected guava production and tourism in the region. On top of that, farmers have failed to provide adequate care to their guavas this year amid the ongoing pandemic, resulting in a lower yield.”

The DAE official added that to help them recoup from this year's losses, guava growers will be given free supplies of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides along with low-interest loans. 

“The government, however, has not taken any steps to provide any special incentives. If the government offers a special incentive, it will be handed to the guava growers,” he added.