Chili production low for unfriendly weather
Syndication by market players is not the only reason for the elevated price of green chili in Bangladesh as changing weather patterns has led to reduced supply, according to experts.
The retail price of green chili hit a record high of Tk 700 per kilogramme (kg) on July 1 but almost immediately dropped by Tk 100 to Tk 120 per kg a day later.
The price reached about Tk 280 per kg that same week before eventually settling at Tk 250 per kg at present.
Earlier on June 25, the government started allowing imports of green chili for a limited period in a bid to tame its soaring price.
However, lower production at home as well as India, the country's biggest source for green chili, has kept the price at an elevated level even in the neighbouring market, where it sold for as much as Rs 400 per kg a week ago.
Agricultural experts in India found that a major reason for lower production is adverse weather as green chili grows under specific conditions or controlled temperatures. Meanwhile, agricultural experts in Bangladesh echoed the same.
During a field visit, this correspondent found that green chili plants have been severely affected by decreased rainfall coupled with the recent heat waves.
Asif Ahmed, a farmer in Gobindaganj upazila of Gaibandha, said he cultivated green chili on three bighas of land this year at a cost of more than Tk 50,000.
Last year, he cultivated the same space of land to get more than 180 maunds (one maund equals 37 kgs) of the crop, which sold for some Tk 4 lakh in total.
"But I only got up to 10 maunds of chili so far this season," Ahmed added.
Ferdous Alam, a chili farmer in Shibganj upazila of Bogura, said the leaves of his plants are curling up and dying before bearing fruit due to less rain and hot weather.
"Last year, I got around 100 maunds of chili from my 1.5 bighas of land, but this time I only got up to 5 maunds," he added.
Alam also said the high price of green chili is of little benefit to farmers like him in absence of proper yields.
Khaja Shekh, another farmer in the same upazila, said he spent as much Tk 4,000 extra this year in order to prevent his plants from withering, but to no avail.
"No one, including the local agricultural officer, gave us proper advice on how to save our crops. The hot weather destroyed us [farmers] this year," he added.
According to sources at the Department of Agricultural Extension in Meherpur, the biggest green chili producing district in Bangladesh, the crop was cultivated on some 3,960 hectares this year, down by 150 hectares compared to last season.
Shankar Kumar Mozumder, deputy director of the Meherpur DAE, said farmers are unable to reach their production target as both cultivation and yields have decreased due to droughts.
Similarly, farmers in Bogura cultivated green chili on a total of 720 hectares this year, down by 120 hectares from last season.
However, the situation is reverse in Rangpur, where cultivation has expanded to 1,740 hectares at present from 1,725 hectares previously.
Motlubar Rahman, deputy director of the Bogura DAE, said farmers normally get 12 tonnes of green chili from each hectare but production is lower this time due to bad weather.
"We will calculate just how much production has dropped this season," he added.
Shailendranath Majumder, principal scientific officer of the Bogura Spice Research Centre, said the main reason for reduced supply is that green chili plants cannot tolerate high temperatures.
If the temperature goes higher than 33 degree Celsius, then pollination of the flower is greatly hampered.
"This season, the temperature exceeded 35 degrees for many days on end. Therefore, production decreased alarmingly," he added.