Farmers in Jaldhaka upazila under the district are struggling to minimise the cost for ongoing boro cultivation as the recently harvested potato failed to bring them the required money due to drastic price fall of the vegetable.
The hapless farmers, especially marginal ones and sharecroppers, are now taking to manual irrigation and engaging labour of family members irrespective of age and gender.
Jaldhaka upazila agriculture office sources said this year they set a target to cultivate boro paddy in 13,552 hectares of land and it was 14,000 hectares last year.
During a recent visit to different villages including Binnakuri, Deshibai, Bogulagari, Masterer Tari, Khanabari, Purbo Kathili and Sholmari in the upazila, this correspondent found many farmers lifting water with buckets from makeshift wells dug with spade.
Farmer Hafizul Islam, 30, of Binnakuri village was seen lifting water from such a well to irrigate his one bigha (30 decimal) of boro land while his wife Shilpi Begum, 25, was spraying the water in their boro field with a tin bowl.
“We can't afford irrigation with power or diesel run pumps and hire day labourers as we could not even recover our production cost due to fall of potato price,” Hafizul said.
Aminur, 45, another farmer of the same village, said he cultivated potato in two bighas of land and got Tk 6,000 only by selling the produce whereas his production cost had stood at Tk 16,000.
Sub Assistant Agriculture Officer Nurol Huda, also in-charge of estimating cultivation cost of different crops at the district agriculture office, said, "As per our estimation, total cost for cultivating boro per bigha will be Tk 8,322 this season. It includes cost of seeds, irrigation, chemical and organic fertilisers, pesticides, and labour for planting, weeding, harvesting, threshing etc."
Hard-pressed due to price fall of recently harvested potato, many farmers sold domestic birds, goats, homestead trees and took loans from NGOs and moneylenders to manage the primary cost for boro cultivation, he added.
After meeting primary requirements like preparation of land and buying of fertilisers and boro seedlings, many farmers have arranged manual irrigation by digging wells as Tk 3000--Tk 3500 per bigha cost for irrigation with power pumps is too high for them, said several farmers including Azimuddin and Nripen Chandra of Sholmari village and Sohrab Ali and Joinal Abedin of Purbo Kathali village.
They are also engaging additional family labour without considering gender and age as massive work is needed for preparing seedbeds, ploughing land, planting, weeding, harvesting, threshing etc.
“I have asked my wife and daughter-in-laws to finish household works early and come to the boro field for weeding with me and my sons, including a tender-aged one, as I can't afford to employ day labourers," said Monmoth Roy, 50, of Deshibai village.