Nearly 350 nurseries in Manikganj have been dealt a fatal blow by the ongoing flooding after they were already devastated by the coronavirus-led shutdown.
Plant growers said 20 lakh saplings of numerous varieties died as flood water entered the nurseries – causing a loss of at least Tk3 crore.
Before the pandemic, nurseries in the central Bangladesh district had been doing well owing to the regular demand for fruit-bearing and timber trees.
For instance, the demand for mango plants of different varieties was high, and these were sold at the nurseries for Tk1,500 to Tk2,000.
The virus-led countrywide shutdown hit the business which failed to bounce back even after the lockdown. Customers were scarce even after the lockdown was relaxed, and nurseries could not reap the rewards of the monsoon – a peak season for tree sales backed by national tree planting campaigns.
Nursery owners said they could not send their staff on leave during the shutdown like other businesses did as trees require constant care. Therefore, they had to pay the employees regularly though their income fell drastically.
The district's Bithi Nursery had several lakh timber and fruit-bearing trees, and had Tk25,000-30,000 sales per day.
The nursery staff member Al Amin said the flooding inundated the plants just after reopening the business after the shutdown ended. "Floodwater spoiled most of the saplings worth Tk15 lakh," he claimed.
Now the nursery's daily sales have dropped to Tk2,000-3,000. "And often it does not cross Tk500. Then how can we overcome the losses," questioned the nursery owner Noimuddin.
Another MDPOD Nursery in Manikganj town had 120 varieties of plants before the flooding. The natural disaster killed at least 20,000 saplings, said the nursery Manager Tarek Hosen.
"It will be very challenging to start over," he declared.
Nurseries require comparatively high land where rainwater does not accumulate or where floodwater cannot damage the saplings.
But such land is not available in the district. Therefore, 90 percent of nurseries here have been affected by the flooding, said Manikganj Nursery Owners Association General Secretary Kamal Hossain.
Manikganj Nursery Owners Association President Masudur Rahman Kamal said nearly 2,000 families rely directly or indirectly on plant growing in the district, and the disaster has jeopardised their lives.
The association advocated for interest-free loans or facilities from the government announced stimulus to salvage their businesses.
Deputy-Director of ManikganjAgricultural Extension Department Shahjahan Ali Biswas said they were listing the flood-affected nursery owners. They will get government support if there is any scope to allocate it.