Watermelon farmers in Patuakhali district are very happy due to a bumper yield and good prices this year. Watermelons from this area are in great demand across the country for their taste, colour and comparatively cheaper price.
This correspondent visited different villages under Rangabali upazila of the district and saw watermelon farmers busy harvesting their crop and preparing to transport the fruit to different destinations. Buyers from across the country come to the area to buy watermelons, locals farmers said.
Cultivation of watermelons has increased in Rangabali because of its profitability. Around 8,000 hectares of land were under watermelon cultivation last year, while it was 9,000 hectares this year, according to Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) sources.
Md Asaduzzaman, a farmer of Neta village, said watermelon cultivation started in the area around 10 years ago when a buyer from Chittagong grew watermelons on 10 acres of leased land. He got a bumper yield due to the availability of water, favourable weather, suitable land and cheaper labour costs. After seeing his success, many farmers started cultivating watermelons on their land, he added.
Md Mustafa Khan, a day laburer of Shiba village, said they had to depend on fishing or farm work to maintain their families, but jobs were not available. Now there is plenty of work in the watermelon fields, he added.
Locals farmers are now demanding watermelon export as with other agricultural products. Amir Hossain, a farmer of Baher Char, said "We can earn foreign currency by exporting watermelons if the government takes step in this regard."
Shah Alam Howlader, a farmer of Baher Char, said a large watermelon is being sold from the field at around Tk 150, a middle-sized one at around Tk 100, and a small one for around Tk 40.
Md Mahfuzur Rahman, Rangabali upazila officer of DAE, said, considering its yield and price, watermelon has become the main agricultural produce in the area, and farmers are very happy cultivating it.