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Mango orchard owners voice mixed reactions over Police deployment

  • Published at 03:12 pm April 12th, 2019
File photo of a mango garden in Chapainawabganj Dhaka Tribune

Some farmers welcome the initiative; others fear police harassment and a poor harvest

The High Court had recently directed the deployment of police personnel to mango orchards throughout Rajshahi region, in a bid to curb the use of toxic chemicals on the plants.

The majority of business community members, plus mango orchard and farm owners, have welcomed the initiative, but some have voiced mixed reactions. 

Several people, engaged in the industry, have pointed out that the High Court directive is not very clear to them, and the deployment of police could cause undue concern among the mango orchard farmers and owners.

The fruits are still in their infancy in orchards across Chapainawabganj, a region famous for its superior quality of mango. The farmers are making an extra effort to maximize their harvests and prevent diseases, so that they can make a hefty profit this season.

However, some orchard owners and farmers have voiced their concerns about the High Court directive, adding that the court is yet to define the use of acceptable levels of pesticides, and how the police would carry out the order.

Some are also concerned about possible police harassment.

‘Cooperative effort needed’

Welcoming the court directive, local mango farmer Zafrul Alom said: “Around 80% of the district is covered by mango orchards. Does the administration have enough police personnel to cover this huge region? 

“A cooperative effort is needed regarding police deployment, so that this initiative does not raise undue concerns among the people.”

Zafrul recommended that a meeting—attended by officials from the administration, agricultural extension department, Mango Research Centre, plus those involved in mango farming and business—must be organized to resolve concerns over the matter.

“Cooperation among all stakeholders will benefit all stakeholders,” he added. Many of the local farmers echoed this opinion.

Meanwhile, a mango farmer and orchard owner in Shibganj, Abdul Majid said: “The fruits are in their immature state, and they are vulnerable to pests, fungi, and natural disasters.

“At this stage, farmers spray pesticides and anti-fungal solutions, under directions of the agricultural department and researchers. If the police prohibit us from spraying pesticides, the whole harvest could be jeopardized. If the farmers do not get clear instructions regarding the court order, the harvest might be seriously harmed.”

However, the mango farmers, in general, welcomed the initiative, and offered their full cooperation to the inspection team, to prevent adulteration of mangoes during storage and marketing phases.

‘Wrong impression’

Stating that the High Court directive is unclear to him, mango farmer Ahsan Habib said: “The court order could give away the wrong impression, that only farmers from Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj use toxic chemicals on mangoes. This is far from the actual truth.

“We definitely want the administration to supervise the orchards, but steps must be taken so that the wrong impression does not become widespread.”

Addressing the issue, Bangladesh Mango Producers’ Merchant Association Vice-President Monowarul Islam said: “Farmers use pesticides and anti-fungal solutions on mangoes after consulting experts and the agriculture department. They are necessary to kill harmful pests and fungi.

“The deployment of police might cause further losses to mango farmers.” 

Senior Science Officer of Chapainawabganj Regional Horticulture Research Center, Dr Md Zamir Uddin said: “I am optimistic that the court mandated inspection team would act in the best interest of the local mango industry.

“The farmers should not be concerned. Instead, they should make greater efforts to maintain their orchards and harvest.” 

Meanwhile, Chapainawabganj Superintendent of Police TM Mojahidul Islam said: “We have yet to receive a hard copy of the High Court order for police deployment. We will take action in this regard once the order reaches us.”

On April 9, the High Court ordered the authorities concerned to deploy police to the mango orchards of Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj in order to remove harmful pesticides within the next seven days. 

The High Court also ordered an observation team be formed to protect the fruits from being affected by harmful pesticides in Dhaka.

Inspector general of police, chairman of BSTI and director general of RAB have been asked to submit a report after the implementation of the order passed by the court.