Watermelon growers in south-western Khulna district are staring at losses due to abnormally low price despite a bumper production of the summer fruit.
Rather than looking for profit the growers are now worried about a recovery of their production cost. They are partly blaming a nexus of middle traders for their price woes.
The syndicate, they complain, buys the fruit at a very low price to sell in the city markers with high profit margin.
The shunning of middlemen is not as easy as it may look. In interviews with some growers it was found that they are to pay Tk 15,000-25,000 each to hire a truck for transporting watermelons besides paying the loaders. Most growers can’t afford the cost.
The price of watermelons dropped significantly after the month of Ramadan and the selling of mouth-watering thirst-quenching fruit is low in the local markets.
To recoup losses, a few were seen taking their produce to Dhaka and Khulna cities but failed to get desired prices.
According to the Department of Agriculture Extension, Khulna, farmers this year cultivated watermelons on 13,990 hectares of land.
Of these, 7,625 hectares are in Dakope upazila, 3,600 hectares in Batiaghata, 1,510 hectares in Paikgachcha, 895 hectares in Koyra, 350 hectares in Dumuria, five hectares in Rupsha, three hectares in Terokhada, one hectare each in Phultala and Metropolitan areas of the district.
In 2021, a total of 7,512 hectares of land were brought under watermelon cultivation and as the watermelon cultivation proved to be profitable, the farmers expanded their cultivation.
An estimated 4.15 lakh tonnes of watermelon have been produced in the district this year.
Abu Syed, a watermelon grower, said “I have brought 10 bighas of land under cultivation and most of the watermelon lying on my lands. One piece of watermelon, weighing 5-10 kg is being sold at Tk 10-20 but in the local market the same watermelon is being sold at Tk 30-40 per kg.”
Quamrul Islam, another farmer, said “I have cultivated watermelons on my ten bighas of land and now I have no idea what to do with these. If I want to take these to Dhaka with my own cost, I have to pay Tk 25000-30,000 more as transport cost. I am I won’t get back one-fourth of the production cost.”
Babul Sheikh, another farmer of Choto Chalna, said “I have brought five bighas of land under watermelon cultivation and still I cannot sell my products due to the poor price. No traders have shown interest to purchase my crop from the field. Now all my watermelon is rotting.”
Utpal Sana, a farmer of Banishanta, said Tk 30,000 to 35,000 is needed to cultivate one bigha of the land but the traders refuse to pay us more than Tk 20,000.
The farmers of Choto Chalna, Pankholi, Moukhali and Tildanga areas are facing the same problems.
The farmers are now searching for markets in Dhaka, Bogura, Chattogram and Rajshahi to sell their products.