Bananas rotting in orchards | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 05, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:23 AM, May 05, 2020

Bananas rotting in orchards

Unable to sell produce, growers in Madhupur incurring losses

Until the coronavirus crisis hit the country, banana grower Shamsul Alam was confident about making a profit of Tk 20 lakh to Tk 70 lakh from his banana plantation in Tangail's Madhupur upazila.

But now he is anticipating a loss of about Tk 30 lakh to Tk 35 lakh and is worried about repaying the Tk 20 lakh loan he took from banks and moneylenders.

A resident of Pirgachha village in Madhupur, Shamsul had invested a total of Tk 80 lakh and leased 170 bighas of land for the plantation. He started cultivation last year in April.

Now in harvest time, the banana grower is struggling to market his produce. "Because of the lack of buyers, bananas are rotting in my orchard," he wailed.

"Due to the shutdown, wholesalers from cities, including Dhaka and Chattogram, are not coming to buy bananas. So, I have to sell my bananas locally at low prices," Shamsul told this correspondent on Sunday over phone.

"I normally sell a kadi [bunch] with 100 to 150 bananas for Tk 300 to Tk 350. Now, I am not getting more than Tk 100," he added.

Shamsul explained that bananas have to be harvested when the fruit's colour is still green, otherwise they ripen and develop cracks on the skin.

Around 60 percent of all commercial banana growers in Madhupur are facing the same problem as Shamsul, said Abdur Rahim, president of the Banana Growers' Association in Madhupur.

The plantation owners, who started cultivation in January last year, were able to sell their produce before the crisis hit the market, he said.

"Livelihood of over 50,000 locals involved in the cultivation, marketing and transportation of the fruit have been badly affected due to the decline in the banana market," he added.

Bananas produced in the upazila are sold both directly from the plantations and also from a large market situated at Jalchhatra area in Madhupur. 

Amir Ali, convenor of Truck Drivers Union in Jalchhatra, said normally on Fridays around 100 to 150 trucks from the area carry bananas to different parts of the country. Now, only four to five are going to adjacent districts with bananas. 

According to the agriculture department in Madhupur, different varieties of banana including sobri and sagar were cultivated on 10,000 acres of lands in around 40 villages in the upazila this season.

Mahmudul Hasan, upazila agriculture officer, pointed out that the fruit cannot be preserved in cold stores.

In developed countries, they make banana paste and use it in food processing industries. But, such businesses have not developed here, he said.

Bananas, grown in the country, are also not exported to the European and American markets as qualities at cultivation stage cannot not be ensured, he added. 

Mahmudul observed that the demand for bananas in the cities decreased because the fruit's main consumers -- students and factory workers, living in hostels and lodgings -- left for their villages after the shutdown.


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