With harvesting season just beginning, farmers are being forced to pay higher wages to employ day labourers
Sunamganj has recently been facing a crisis of workers to harvest paddy fields.
The season for harvesting paddy across all Haors, has just begun. Around 240,000 hectares of Haor croplands have been planted with Boro seeds, some of which already have paddy ready for harvesting.
However, a shortage of labourers has left farmers hopeless.
Farmers say, thunderstorms, a greater number of people working at stone quarries, and a shortage of combine harvesters, have led to the crisis.
"We are not getting any workers, and the season of harvest has just started," lamented Siddiq Mia, a farmer from Alipur village in Beheli union of Jamalganj upazila. "Last year, I had to pay Tk500 per day to labourers to get the work done; it is too costly for me to sustain.
"I do not know what is going to happen this year," Siddiq said.
Hossain Ali, from the same village, had similar complaints. "Earlier, day labourers from all across the country would come to Sunamganj in March-April, seeking work. But for the last 15-20 years, we have been getting fewer and fewer workers."
He added: "In recent years, locals have had to join forces and come together for harvesting."
There are 95 haors across 11 upazilas, including Shillar Haor, Kalnar Haor, Karchar Haor, Angurali Haor, Putiar Haor, Shanir Haor, Gurmar Haor, Shonamaral Haor, Pagnar Haor, and more, in Sadar, Bishambharpur, Tahirpur, Dirai, Shalla, Jamalganj, South Sunamganj, Doarbazar, Dharmapasha, Chhatak, and Jagannathpur upazilas.
Till now, a total of 224,440 hectares of croplands, including 16,150 hectares in Sadar upazila, 22,475 hectares in South Sunamganj, 13,100 hectares and 11,490 hectares in Bishambharpur, 20,725 hectares in Jagannathpur, 24,660 hectares in Jamalganj, 18,300 hectares in Tahirpur, 31,800 hectares in Dharmapasha, 14,800 hectares in Chhatak, 28,930 hectares in Dirai, and 22,010 hectares in Shalla upazila, have paddy cultivation.
Chairman of Fatehpur union in Bishambharpur upazila, Ranajit Chowdhury Rajon, said: "Every year, we face a severe crisis of workers willing to harvest paddy in harvesting season. Farmers have to pay high wages to get anyone."
He commented that the supply of combine harvesters in each and every village can help fight the worker crisis.
Tahirpur Upazila Parishad Chairman, Karuna Sindhu Chowdhury Babu,l said: "We face this crisis because harvesting starts across all the haors at the same time. The Agriculture Department needs to take necessary steps to reduce the crisis, or farmers will be forced to pay higher wages this year as well."
"Like other times, the Agriculture Department has created a system of combine harvesters for the harvest season," Sunamganj Agricultural Expansion Officer, Md Bashir, said. "But the government alone cannot solve the problem.
"All the well-to-do farmers need to come forward to collectively buy a good quality combine harvester," he said. "This will not only help them, but also help the poorer farmers."