A good yield of seasonal fruits including mangos, litchis and jackfruit in various districts has brought new challenges as farmers will face a loss because they cannot transport and sell their fruits amid the Covid-19 lockdown. The government said it is taking various measures to ensure unhindered transportation of seasonal fruits.
An online meeting, moderated by agriculture secretary Md Nasiruzzaman, was held on Saturday using Zoom, to address the issues.
Agriculture minister Dr Md Abdur Razzaque, former agriculture minister Matia Chowdhury, food minister Sadhan Chandra Mazumdar, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, and State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam attended the online meeting among others.
The following decisions were taken at the meeting to market seasonal fruits amid the lockdown: Ensuring uninterrupted transportation of fruits for businessmen, warehouse owners and middlemen in various districts; providing health certificates and accommodation to them if required; ensuring that the police do not harass fruit-laden vehicles; using BRTC trucks, parcel train, etc for fruit transportation; exemption of toll on Bangabandhu Bridge; adding seasonal fruits to relief items; requesting companies such as Pran, Acme, Brac, etc to buy more mangos and litchis this year to make juice, mango bars, pickle, chutney etc.; coordinated monitoring to ensure that formalin and other harmful chemicals are not used.
Farmers have already started harvesting seasonal fruits such as mangos, litchis, pineapples, jackfruit, etc. If they cannot market the fruits properly, they will face a loss and lose interest in fruit farming. Moreover, people will be deprived of the seasonal fruits which are essential for building immunity in the time of Covid-19, said Abdur Razzaque.
He said Covid-19 has had a negative impact on other agriculture products too, and marketing them is one of the greatest challenges at present. Many farmers have already faced a loss as they could not send their products due to a lack of transportation, and their vegetables often rot in the field. Transportation cost has also been doubled because trucks return empty, he added.
Former agriculture minister Begum Matia Chowdhury suggested that the government should subsidise truck transportation cost.
If the police, army, hospitals, prisons, and other government offices buy mangoes from farmers, there will be no problem in marketing, and the farmers will get the right price, she suggested.
This year, the target production of mangos is 22,32,000 tonnes from 1.89 lakh hectares of land, mainly in Rajshahi, Naogaon, Chapainawabganj, Satkhira, Natore, Gazipur, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
The production target of litchis this year is 2.32 lakh tonnes from 32,000 hectares of land mainly in Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Pabna, Gazipur, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
The expected jackfruit yield is 18.89 lakh tonnes from 71,700 hectares of land.
Pineapples, most of which are produced in Tangail, are expected to have a yield of 4.97 lakh tonnes from 20,120 hectares of land.