Aman farmers in Lalmonirhat are facing shortage of day labourers due to a hot spell in the region over the past few days.
While many of the labourers are refraining from working in the open, others are overcharging, said many farmers.
Being unable to find labourers at affordable rates, several farmers said they would shelve their plans to plant Aman seedlings for the time being.
They said the spike in labour rates is a double blow to them as they are still reeling from losses incurred due to falling prices of paddy.
Farm labourer Nazrul Islam from Hatibandha upazila’s Gaddimari, a village by the Teesta river, said the heat has been so intense that they cannot work under the sun without taking frequent breaks in the shade.
“We haven’t been planting Aman seedlings due to the scorching heat. Some of us, however, might consider it if the pay is good,” he also said.
Another day labourer, Nur Alam, from the same village, said usually a team of seven workers can sow Aman seedlings on five bighas of land in one day. But, due to the excessive heat, they can barely sow seedlings on three bighas now.
Each labourer now charges Tk 1,000 for sowing seedlings on one bigha of land, he added.
Even though their rates have gone up, their earnings are falling because they cannot stay out long enough to work on a larger area in the boiling heat, said labourer Nazir Hossain from Durakuti village in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila. “Many are even falling sick trying to sow the seedlings in the field.”
Farmer Ramesh Chandra Barmon, from Ratherpar village in Aditmari upazila, said labour rates have gone up -- from last year’s Tk 700 to Tk 750 to Tk 1,000 this year. But there is still a shortage in number of labourers available for work in the heat.
“I got 15 bighas of my land ploughed. But out of those, six bighas had to be left uncultivated due to labour shortage,” said another farmer, Sohrab Hossain, from the same village.
Meteorological office in Rangpur said the temperature in the division has remained between 32 and 35 degrees Celsius over the past few days and the highest temperature in the division on Friday was 35 degrees Celsius -- a record high for that day. The temperature on the same date a year ago was 27 degrees Celsius.
Bidubhushan Roy, deputy director of Department of Agricultural Extension, said 5,042 hectares of land was used to grow Aman seedlings for cultivation on 90,400 hectares of land this season, but the labour shortage due to the heat is delaying the cultivation.