Watermelons lie in fields as hartals deter buyers
Growers leave their reaped watermelons at a field of Dhankhali village in Kalapara upazila of Patuakhali as the district famous for large-scale cultivation of the popular summer fruit sees only a small number of wholesale buyers from other areas of the country due to transport problem amid frequent hartal during the last couple of weeks. PHOTO: STAR
Watermelon growers in the district are selling the popular summer fruit for throwaway prices due to transport problem amid frequent hartal enforced by different political parties.
Tourism in picturesque sea beach Kuakata is also affected due to the situation.
During a visit to different areas of Kalapara upazila on Thursday, this correspondent saw huge quantity of ripe watermelon lying in fields as farmers cannot sell it due to lack of buyers.
Watermelon weighing over one kg is selling at Tk 5,000 to 10,000 per thousand in the wholesale markets.
"I cultivated watermelon on 40 acres of land this year and expected to get Tk 60 lakh to 70 lakh by selling it as buyers from different areas including Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi come here to buy the fruit in this season. But now the picture is different due to frequent hartal in the peak marketing time," said Gazi Asafuddowla Sohel, a farmer of Dhankhali village under Kalapara upazila.
Nur Mohammad of Gongamoti under the same upazila spent Tk 60,000 to cultivate watermelon on 1.5 acres of land this year and expected to earn over Tk 1.5 lakh by selling it but now he is worried about recovery of the production cost.
"Watermelon is rotting in the field as we can't send it to Dhaka and Chittagong by truck for sale due to hartal," he added.
Monir Hossain, a farmer of the same village, said, "Rent of truck also doubled due to the unrest. We paid Tk 15,000 to Tk 18,000 as rent per trip to Dhaka in last year but presently they are demanding Tk 35,000 to Tk 40,000. Now we are thinking to send watermelon by cargo or launch."
Many trucks were found lying idle at different spots on Patuakhali-Kalapara road.
"It now takes much longer time to reach Dhaka as we often have to keep vehicles at safer places in fear of arson by hartal supporters. And so, the rent has almost doubled. Sometimes watermelon gets damaged on the road as it takes a couple of days to reach the destination," said Abdur Rahman, driver of a truck waiting at Dhankhali.
Bahadur of Champapur union under Kalapara upazila, who came to Patuakhali New Market to sell watermelon, said he cultivated the fruit on 2.5 acres of land at a cost of Tk 75,000 but now he would not get over 45,000 by selling the produce.
This season 35,218 acres of land has been brought under watermelon cultivation in the district and the expected yield is about five lakh tonnes, said sources of the Department of Agriculture Extension in Patuakhali.
Meanwhile, Kuakata sea beach sees very small number of tourists due to frequent transport disruption for the last couple of weeks.
"Usually a large number of tourists come to Kuakata this season but the situation is frustrating now. We find it difficult to make timely payment of salary to our staff as the business is very dull," said Shafiqur Rahman Chand Mia, president of district hotel-motel owner's association, also president of Patuakhali Chamber of Commerce and Industry.