‘My mangoes are cheaper than water here. I do not think I can cover my costs this year’
A delayed heat wave has ripened mangoes in Rajshahi and the surrounding region at an inopportune time, pushing wholesale prices so low that farmers are in dismay.
Baneswar Bazar is the biggest wholesale market for mangoes in the region. Located in Puthia, an hour’s drive from Rajshahi city, the market is bustling at this time of the year, the air heavy with the scent of ripe mangoes.
Orchard owner Hasanul Islam has brought in his harvest, and he is very upset.
“My mangoes are cheaper than water here. I do not think I can cover my costs this year,” he said.
“At home I have massive piles of ripe mangoes that the traders will not buy. I have been selling them for Tk13-15, and still there are very few takers. The mangoes are going bad,” he added.
To cut his losses, Hasan is drying some of the ripe mangoes to make roll ups.
Another mango farmer, Ashraful Islam, a Puthia local, said the mango prices would not cover his farming costs of.
“How am I going to survive if this is the price I get?” he said.
According to mango trader Babul Akter, here are the prices for major strains of mango in Baneswar Bazar now:
“Mangoes started coming in from mid-Ramadan and that pushed down the prices,” he said.
“This year we were expecting mango prices to double,” he added.
In Rajshahi city’s Saheb Bazar, prices are a little higher.
Abdul Wadud Montu, who owns a warehouse in the market, said he was selling Langra for Tk40-45 and Himsagar for Tk45-50.
Asked why the prices were higher, he said here in Saheb Bazar, traders sorted the mangoes before selling them.
Meanwhile, buyers want to benefit from the low prices.
Siddiqur Rahman, who came to the market to buy mangoes, said: “I heard that the prices are low this year. But Saheb Bazar will never lower its prices.”
“I am thinking I will go to Baneswar Haat. I will have to buy some for home and I will have to buy a couple of maunds (40kg unit) for relatives in Dhaka,” he said.
Motiur Rahman, a fruit stall owner in Rajshahi’s Shalbagan, said he had gotten Langra for Tk40 per kg and Khirsapati for Tk45.
“The traders are refusing to buy ripe mangoes, so we do not get them either,” he said.
“This is definitely hurting the farmers,” he added.
Traders usually refuse to take mangoes that ripen on the tree. But due to the vagaries of weather, that is what most farmers have this year.
The markets and the agriculture offices were expecting the mangoes to be ready for picking between May 20 and June 10. But the weather betrayed the farmers this year. It was an unusually cool 20 days. Very few orchards were able to harvest in this time.
The heat waves came after June 10, and the temperature went up to 35-40 degrees Celsius for the next week.
This being the ideal temperature for the ripening of mangoes, farmers across Rajshahi watched in dismay as their orchards turned yellow and red in the middle of the Eid holidays.
The holidays are a bad time for mango picking anyway, because all transport services are closed. Courier services, who transport most of the mango from the orchards to the wholesale markets in the region, closed for Eid on June 14 and reopened on June 18.
This delay may have cost the mango farmers their profits this year.
Each day that passed with the mangoes still on the trees, the prices fell. Falling prices in turn discouraged farmers from picking mangoes.
At this point there appears to be little chance prices will pick up again, or that there will be mangoes to sell when they do.
However, Department of Agricultural Extension officials are still hopeful. Rajshahi DAE Deputy Director, Deb Dulal Dhali, said: “The sudden heat has ripened the mangoes and that is a problem.”
“The mango is an adverse weather crop. It will pass. Eid is over and the courier services are back on, and the demand for mango will pick up again,” he said.
“And then the prices will go up too. The farmers do not need to worry about anything,” he said.