Sugarcane farmers in Rajbari are unlikely to bag profits this season because of excessive rainfall and resultant water stagnation in sugarcane fields, which substantially impeded the growth of crops and decimated them.
The amount of rain that fell in the past three months has been measured to be three times higher than which fell over the same period last year, according to a source at the department of agriculture extension (DAE).
There has also been a higher incidence of what is generically called “red-heart disease” (in which case the inner part of a cane turns reddish and decays) as a result of pest attacks. Pests cause to reduce crop yield by eating roots.
Rajbari, despite being one of the top sugarcane growing regions in the country, recorded dips in cultivation acreage too. Sugarcane was cultivated on about 999 hectares of land against the target of 1,232 hectares.
On the other hand, about 1107.73 hectares of land were brought under cultivation against the targeted 1840 hectares in the areas covered by Faridpur Sugar Mill, which processes raw sugarcanes produced both in Rajbari and Faridpur.
“Heavy rainfall in the last three month in five upazilas of the district inundated vast areas of sugarcane fields. It has been very frustrating for farmers who had been patiently waiting to reap the fruits of their labour,” said Md Rafiqul Islam, regional director of Faridpur Sugar Mill.
It takes usually 14/18 months to grow sugarcanes which is much longer compared to other crops, he added. “Because of this time factor as well as lack of profits, farmers are increasingly turning to other crops.”
During a recent visit to several sugarcane fields, it was found that many plants had been decimated by pest attacks against which farmers had little protection.
Hasan Ali Sardar, a farmer at the Endraw Narayapur village in Rajbari Sadar upazila, cultivated sugarcanes on two acres of land.
“Insects partly damaged my field. If you take a closer look, you will see many sticks bearing marks of the damage inside,” he said.
Rokon Uddin Mollah, another farmer, was nearly in tears when he described how he might not be able to repay loans that he had taken for plantation. “I borrowed TK10,000 to cultivate sugarcane on 15 decimals of land. As things stand now, after months of rain and pest attacks, I see no hope of having any profits at all.”
Several farmers also alleged that no agriculture experts or officers from DAE visited their areas even after reporting the incidence of red-heart disease.
Mohammad Golam Kibriya, deputy director of the department at Rajbari, however, denied the allegation, explaining how the red-heart disease came to being in the first place.
“The problem arose mainly because of incessant rainfall which started from before August. The disease takes place when water remain stranded in a field for a long time.”