No cheer for flower growers
Pahela Baishakh celebrations are never complete without flowers. Be it for decoration, presenting a bouquet to someone special or gracing the hair of women and children alike, flowers are an indispensable part of the spirit of the festivities.
Not just revelers, the Bangla new year also brings joy to flower farmers who eagerly wait for the festival every year to sell their treasured cultivation and turn a profit.
But this year it's different due to the coronavirus outbreak. Growers are incurring huge losses amid the countrywide shutdown to prevent the spread of the virus.
Upon walking along the villages in Jashore and Bogura, one would find no dearth of colours in the stretches of land filled with rose, tuberose, marigold and gerbera. But one would also see flower growers sitting idly with blank looks on their faces.
Growers in Godkhali area of Jashore fear that they will incur a loss of around Tk 100 crore due to the ongoing shutdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus. They said the number of buyers has fallen drastically this year.
The Godkhali market, which used to be abuzz with activities before the Bangla new year with traders buying flowers in large quantities to sell across the country, now wears a deserted look. Out of desperation, the growers are selling flowers as cattle feed.
Some 5,500 farmers cultivated flowers in around 6,000 hectares of land in Jhikargacha upazila of Jashore this year, according to Godkhali Flower Society. They said due to favourable weather, farmers got bumper production.
Usually, farmers and traders target major festivals to double their profit. But this year, most major events got cancelled held due to coronavirus.
"I cultivated rose on two and half bighas of land. But I cannot sell those. Now, I'm using those as cattle feed," said Shajahan Miah, a flower grower in Godkhali.
"I have to collect some 1,500 to 2,000 roses from the garden daily. If I don't do so, they will go bad and damage my garden. I'm using those roses as cattle feed," he told this correspondent yesterday.
Flower trader Sher Ali of Panisara area said all growers and traders are in a dire state this year. "I hope the authorities concerned will help us in this situation."
Contacted, Abdur Rahim, president of Bangladesh Flower Society, said, "The wholesale flower market at Godkhali has been closed since March 24. As a result, growers cannot sell flowers. On the other hand, they cannot keep flowers in their garden as those will go bad and eventually damage the gardens. They are in a severe crisis and need help."
"We demand that the government arrange special incentives and loans for growers to cover up losses," he added.
BOGURA GROWERS FACE UNCERTAINTY
Meanwhile, growers in Bogura are not faring any better.
At least 300 commercial flower growers are counting huge losses as this year's Pahela Baishakh celebrations have been cancelled.
Kamrul Islam, a flower grower at Mahasthangarh in Shibganj upazila, said, "Every year before Pahela Baishakh, traders from various districts use to contact me for flowers. This time no one did. The roses in my 30-decimal land bloomed fully a few days ago, and now it's getting damaged."
"I never thought my flowers would remain unsold. I have spent around Tk 40,000, and was hoping to make a good profit. But i won't even get my money back."
Abdul Mannan, owner of the Mahasthangarh Shabuj Nursery, echoed him.
Abul Kasem Azad, deputy director of Bogura Department of Agricultural Extension, said, "There are at least 300 commercial flower farmers who produce flowers worth Tk 1.5 crore on the occasion of Pahela Baishakh. Due to the coronavirus situation, they are losing all the money they had invested. We are trying to come up with something for them."