Bumper boro rice production should make farmers happy. But farmers in Lalmonirhat are unable to smile because they are compelled to sell their paddy at a price much lower than the production cost.
“I sold one kg paddy at Tk 12 against the product cost of Tk 15,” said farmer Afsar Ali, 55, at Shalmara village of Aditmari upazila.
“I was compelled to sell my paddy at a lower cost because I needed some money to pay back my loan that I took from a local NGO,” said Afsar who grew 78 maunds of paddy on his four bigha land spending Tk 45000.
Officials of the Agriculture Extension Department (AED) say, farmers spent Tk 532-550 to produce per maund (around 40 kgs) of paddy while they were selling the same amount at Tk 480-520 in the local market.
Typically in such situations, the government offer farmers to buy their paddy at a ‘fair price’—so that they do not incur losses.
This time the government declared to purchase only 8000 tonnes of rice from Lalmonirhat farmers at a fair price from May 5. Unfortunately, Lalmonirhat has produced 3.18 lakh metric tonnes of paddy in five upazilas and this has left the farmers back to square one.
Then again, the food department has not yet begun buying the paddy as per the schedule.
Farmers like Afsar are waiting for the government to buy their paddy. “I became happy hearing the government’s announcement on paddy procurement. But we still do not know when and how we will be able to get the chance to sell the paddy at a fair price,” noted farmer Abdul Gafur,48, of Bhatibari village in Lalmonuirhat sadar.
Delowar Hossain, 62, a farmer at Balapara village of Aditmari upazila, and Hare Ram Barmon,65, at Kakina village of Kaliganj upazila echo the same sentiment and regret cultivating rice in their field now.
“I got 304 maunds of paddy from 16 bighas land. But I don’t know how much of this paddy will be sold to the government,” Barmon said.
As time passes by, waiting farmers are now selling parts of their harvest at a much lower price because there is not much of a demand.
Nazrul Islam is a wholesale paddy buyer based in Bhelabari village. He said he was offering the farmers a lower rate because there was not much of demand at the wholesale level.
Lalmonirhat has 2,32,500 farming families are dependent on agriculture, and of them 70-75 percent farmers are farming paddy, AED sources said.
The Deputy Director DD in Lalmonirhat AED Safayet Hossain said, “The government paddy procurement target is very insufficient against the production in the region.” The official suggested that the authorities should increase the procurement target. Or else the farmers would face misery.
The District Food Controller in Lalmonirhat Golam Mawla said, “Paddy procurement from the growers at Tk 23 per kg will start within a week, and it would be continued till 5 June this year.”
“If the govt orders to increase the procurement figure, I will follow the order to buy more paddy from growers,” he added.