Farmers in Dinajpur are marketing immature lychees to avoid losses as different diseases and bad weather have lowered the yield this season.
Agriculturists say unripe lychees can be harmful to human health and urge the authorities to take proper action to stop them from coming to the market.
Farmers say lychee orchards have suffered different diseases this year. Worms attacked the roots of many trees and the skin of lychees has often broken while still on the tree. As a result, they are plucking the fruits earlier than normal to avoid further damage.
It would have taken about a week more for the lychees to mature, they said.
Ayub Ali of Masimpur in Dinajpur Sadar said, "I am plucking lychees from 30 trees in one of my 10 gardens today. I got only 10,000 lychees from these trees. There will be hardly 40,000-50,000 lychees in my orchards."
Ayub started to collect the fruits because of worms on the trees. "Bats are also ruining the fruits. The yield is already low this year. If I do not start collecting lychees in advance, I will have to count losses this year as well," he said.
Freedom fighter Akbar Ali, another lychee farmer in the area, said the skin of the fruit is breaking on trees due to imbalanced weather – a lack of enough rain this season. He said agriculture officials should advise farmers on what should be done in this circumstance.
Jamil Hossain, another farmer from Masimpur, said, "Lychees are getting damaged on the trees even after spraying pesticides and vitamins."
"The yield of lychee is very low this year compared to other years. This year I got one-fourth of what the yield was last year. I am harvesting early as there is a huge demand for the fruit right now. It would have been better if the lychees could be harvested five-seven more days later," Akbar Ali said.
According to him, wholesale buyers are collecting immature lychees due to the high demand.
Many lychee farmers faced losses last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. They waited for this season to recover their losses but now the low yield has broken that dream.
Jamil Hossain, another farmer from Masimpur, who had to sell his crop at a lower price last year, is still worried this year as vehicle movement is still halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, experts say that immature litchis can be harmful to human health.
On consuming immature lychee Pradeep Kumar Guha, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture Extension, Dinajpur, said, "Immature lychees contain high levels of organic acids that are harmful to health."
He said the DAE officials are talking to the farmers and advising them on what to do. "Necessary steps have also been taken to prevent these immature fruits from entering the market," he added.
The main market for lychee in Dinajpur used to sit in the New Market in front of the Kotwali police station. But due to the epidemic it has been shifted to the Shaheed Baramath area.
Farmers also sell lychee on footpaths in different areas.
Merina Begum, a buyer at the Pulhat market, said, "Most of the lychees that vendors are selling are still green. These cause various problems in the body. There are also some ripe lychees, but they are not quite good."
Lychee is cultivated in 13 upazilas of the district – mostly in Sadar and Biral upazilas.
Sumon Islam, proprietor of a warehouse, said Madraji lychee that has arrived in the market is selling at Tk1,800 per 1,000 pieces. The other varieties – China-Three, Jackfruit, Bedana – will come to the market within a week.