Fear of low production grips onion seed growers in Faridpur
Onion seed producers in Faridpur fear a lower than expected harvest this time as droughts, swarming caterpillar attacks and low pollination have hampered cultivation this year.
Farmers in Faridpur made significant profits from onion seed production last year, when they sold each maund (37 kg) for Tk 80,000 to Tk 2.5 lakh.
One such farmer was Shahida Begum, who earned Tk 4 crore by selling onion seeds in 2020.
For her achievement, Begum received the Channel I Agro Award.
A total of 1,711 hectares of land across nine upazilas in Faridpur are being used for onion seed cultivation this year while it was 1,400 hectares in 2020.
Farmers are cultivating various varieties of onion seed, including Rajshahi Tahirpur, Superking, Sukhsagar, BARI-4, Nasik King and also the hybrid ones.
But during a visit to Vachanchar and Gobindapur village of Faridpur Sadar upazila on Friday, this correspondent found that most of the onion shoots sticking out of the ground had dried up.
Some sprouts also showed signs of swarming caterpillar attacks while others failed to flower at all due to a lack of pollination.
"I cultivated 50 decimals of land last year and got 50 kilogrammes [kg] of onion seeds. For this reason, I cultivated the seeds on 120 decimals this year by spending Tk 1.2 lakh," said Nazir Uddin Mandal, a farmer of Vachanchar village.
"But since the presence of bees has declined this year, the pollination process did not properly take place. Now I doubt whether I will get even 80 kgs of seeds from my land," he added.
Echoing the sentiment, Mithun Mollah, another farmer in the area, said onion seed production would not be more than 30 to 40 per cent of the expected level this year due to drought, insect infestations and a lack of pollination.
Mollah alleged that the local agriculture department office did not provide any detailed advice or research on onion seeds.
As a result, farmers unwittingly decimated the local bee population by using pesticides to prevent the attack of swarming caterpillars, he added.
Shahida Begum, a farmer of Gobindapur village, spent Tk 84 lakh to bring 35 acres of land under onion seed cultivation this year.
"At first we hoped to get 400 kgs of onion seed from each acre but the drought has ruined our dream," she said, adding that they would now probably get just 150 kgs of seeds per acre.
"I urged the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) to help farmers with the necessary advice so that they can somehow at least take home the seeds they still have on their land," said Abu Sayed Chowdhury, chairman of Ambikapur Union Parishad.
Around 15 to 20 per cent of the onion plants in Faridpur may have been destroyed by droughts, pests and a lack of pollination this year, said Ashutos Biswas, additional deputy director of the DAE office in Faridpur.
"Farmers do not listen to our advice. We suggested that onion pesticides should be sprayed on the field 20 days after planting and every 12 days after that, but farmers do not use any pesticides until pests attack their land."
"It is true that the number of bees was not sufficient as we expected but the farmers who cultivated sunflowers and Kushum flowers around their onion seeds by listening to our advice have not had any problem," Biswas added.