• Monday, September 01, 2014

Unrest piles up debt burden on small farmers

Sohel Parvez
Many small farmers now struggle to pay back their loans due to the falling prices of their produce in political volatility. Photo: Star
Many small farmers now struggle to pay back their loans due to the falling prices of their produce in political volatility. Photo: Star

Md Zakir Hossain, a 43-year-old small farmer, paid the monthly instalment on loans by borrowing from a neighbour. Later, he went to the local office of an NGO with the plea to get a new loan to grow vegetables.
But his appeal was rejected. Now he does not know how he would repay the loans or recoup the losses he had incurred for falling prices of beans and radishes due to repeated shutdowns and blockades for over two months since October 26.
"Hartals and blockades have ruined me and many of us.”
“Fund crisis is so severe that I can neither pay the monthly instalments timely nor make new investments to take care of the existing cauliflowers and eggplants," said the farmer from Jessore, a vegetable growing district.  
Owner of only half an acre of cultivable land, Hossain borrowed Tk 50,000 from Brac to grow winter vegetables last year.
Before the onset of the political turmoil, he managed to repay Tk 5,100 by selling vegetables, mainly beans.
But he began to feel the pinch as the prices of vegetables slumped in absence of vehicular movement due to continuous strikes and shutdowns.
He said he could sell beans as high as Tk 35 a kilogram before the political unrest ensued.
"But the prices of beans fell to as low as Tk 6 a kilogram," Hossain said, adding that he had to sell radishes at Tk 2 a kilogram last month.
"I have never fallen into such
troubles."
Like Hossain, many small farmers are struggling to repay loans provided by Brac under Bangladesh Bank's sharecropper loan scheme.
Brac officials said the falling prices of the farm produces due to the shutdowns have put many small farmers in a tight corner.
A section of small farmers, who cultivate crops by leasing lands, are now taking loans from informal sources to clear their debts.
But many became loan defaulters.
Mohammad Ibrahim, a farmer at Chougachha in Jessore, is one of such defaulters. He paid the monthly instalment of Tk 3,600 for December by borrowing part of the money from a relative. But he is yet to pay the instalment for January, he said.
"We are really in deep trouble due to the huge losses caused by the falling prices of vegetables," he said.
He could not purchase fertiliser for the current boro season because of a fund crisis.
Monira Begum of Atgharia in Pabna is another farmer who failed to pay the loan instalments for December and January.
Sultan Ali Sarker, a small farmer at Dhupchachia in Bogra, could not clear the instalments for November and December, as incomes from sales of vegetables were not enough.

“Most of the farmers did not harvest potatoes in the last few months due to hartals and blockades. Now almost all of them have started harvesting which caused a fall in the prices."
Economist Mahabub Hossain, who closely follows agriculture and rural economy, said the farmers who really face troubles in paying monthly instalments should get waiver. “Fresh loans may be extended to help the boro farmers by rescheduling existing loans."

Published: 12:00 am Sunday, January 19, 2014

Last modified: 12:12 am Monday, January 20, 2014

TAGS: political unrest NGO recoup the losses monthly instalments Hartals and blockade prices of vegetables new investments leasing lands.

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