Farmers have been selling the tomatoes at five times lower the price than previous years
Same as every year, Panchagarh farmers planted tomato with high hopes as the vegetable generally brings good profit prompted by a comparatively long winter in the district.
However, this year, farmers have been selling the tomatoes at five times lower the price than previous years because they managed to transport the produce outside of the district in a very small scale. The demand of tomatoes fell due to the ongoing shutdown to stem the spread of Covid-19.
As a result, parts of the tomato cultivated in five upazilas in Panchagarh had begun to go bad. Farmers in the district expressed extreme concern to this correspondent,pondering how they would run their families and payback their loans.
Ashraful Islam, a tomato farmer in Nakkati village of Panchagarh Sadar said: “The scene on the tomato fields is heart wrenching. All our money is wasting away before our eyes. If the government does not provide subsidies, we have to beg on the streets.”
Osman Ali, another tomato farmer, said: “Wholesalers are not buying our tomato because of the lockdown situation. Ripe tomatoes are falling from our trees on its own. We loaned money for our cultivation, but how can we pay back the money now.”
Babul Hossain, a trader of commodities in Sadar upazila, said: “Last year each truck for tomato transportation cost us Tk35,000. This year, truck-fare reached Tk60,000. We have made a little profit sending some trucks, for some we had to incur loss. Now its too risky for tomato business."
“Currently we are buying good quality of tomatoes at Tk120 to Tk160 per maund from farmersat a limited rate. Hopefully we can offer a better price when the situation becomes normal and wholesalers outside the district can buy more tomatoes.”
Farmers said they could harvest 200 maunds of tomatoes from per bigha of land spending around Tk25,000 for the cultivation. The same tomatoes which were sold at Tk400 to Tk500 per maund in previous years, have now been selling at Tk120.
Some of the local wholesalers said they transported tomatoes out of the district after buying from farmers, but yet to receive their income.
Abu Hanif, deputy director of district Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), said: “Farmers in Panchagarh have been cultivating Nabi variety of tomatoes for a few years as it grows very well due to the prolonged winter in the district. The vegetable is causing farmers distress this season as its price has fallen because of the lockdown that are in place all over the country.”
Superintendent of Police Md Yusuf Ali, in Panchagarh, suggested that farmers and traders contact with police if they feel fair prices are not being offered to them.