While a significant part of Bangladesh is bearing the full brunt of the monsoon season this year, Panchagarh has yet to get its fair share of the rain.
Since mid-June, there has hardly been proper rain in the northernmost district of the country, which is becoming a cause for concern for the local paddy farmers.
Monsoon is the time for cultivating Ropa Aman paddy as it requires a healthy bout of rainfall. But most farmers in Panchagarh have not been able to plant the paddy this year.
In some areas where the paddy had been planted early, the saplings are now getting damaged.
The farmers are worried that they may face great financial losses this season.
Some of the farmers have been using diesel-run shallow water pumps to irrigate their paddy fields, but most farmers cannot afford using water pumps.
Because of this situation, the production cost is spiralling up as well, farmers told the Dhaka Tribune.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension's (DAE) Panchagarh office, farmers prepared to cultivate Ropa Aman in 96,000 hectares of land this year, but so far they have been able to plant the paddy in only 20,000 hectares of land.
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Only a few paddy farmers in Panchagarh have been able to use shallow diesel-run water pumps to irrigate their paddy fields in the absence of monsoon rain this year. Most of them cannot afford it Dhaka Tribune
Most canals and beels (large wetlands) in the district that dried up in summer have yet to regain their original form. Even the water flow in the rivers that run through the district, including the Karatoa, are below the expected level during monsoon.
If this situation continues, it would be impossible to reach the production target of Ropa Aman this year, said several farmers.
Nuruzzaman, a paddy farmer from the district's Sadar upazila, said: "We cultivate Ropa Aman using the rainwater every monsoon. But this year, we are facing acute shortage of water as we have not had enough rain since the middle of June.”
Frustrated by the unusual weather activity, he further said: "We are not sure if we will be able to cultivate paddy at all this year, or meet the demand of rice.”
Rahmat Ali, an elderly farmer from the same upazila who planted Ropa Aman early in low-lying fields, said: “I cannot even consider cultivating the paddy on highland because of the lack of water, as using water pumps for irrigation is expensive.”
He further added that most farmers in the region were not capable enough to take the risk of investing in shallow water pumps.
When contacted, DAE Panchagarh Deputy Director Md Shamsul Haq said even though shallow water pumps are expensive, his office has recommended using them for irrigation.
“They [the farmers] will have to do it, otherwise they will surely incur losses since the monsoon is nearing its end,” he added.