As the green coconut farmers of Lakshmipur district get a good price for their produce, they sell them to traders across the country without considering other related industries. Consequently, other coconut-based industries are suffering the consequences.
Traders collect about 200,000 green coconuts from Lakshmipur district every day and supply them across the country every day. Most of the green coconuts are supplied to warehouses in Jatrabari, Postagola and Kawran Bazar in Dhaka.
During summer, there is a high demand for green coconuts in the country, and because of this huge demand, the market price is also good. Thereby, the farmers of Lakshmipur randomly cut the green coconuts leaving the trees empty.
This unbridled harvesting of green coconuts is having a detrimental effect on the coconut-based industries. Five types of products are made from green coconuts after they mature.
On Thursday (October 8), some factory owners, workers and farmers from Haiderganj, Dalalbazar, Panpara and Mirpur areas - known as large markets for coconuts in Lakshmipur – said that the production of coconuts has decreased due to the rampant sale of green coconuts even when they are still on the trees.
They also said that the coconut oil production industry is facing a shortage of coconuts. They added that other coconut industries like mosquito coil factories, the coconut fibre industry, cocodust and coconut shell industry have also suffered losses.
Coconut traders also fear that a number of factories could be shut down due to a shortage of coconuts, and this may result in the unemployment of thousands of people.
According to locals, eight coir mills and 3 more coconut processing mills in Raipur upazila have shut down due to non-availability of coconuts. At least 10-12 people used to work every day in each of these mills. There were 23 such mills in the district, they said.
Coconut fibre is used to make different fancy and necessary products including mattresses, rugs, ropes, and sofas.The bedding industry also uses the coconut fibres
Selim, a factory worker, said coconut fibre is used to make different fancy and necessary products including mattresses, rugs, ropes, and sofas.
"The bedding industry also uses the coconut fibres. Coconut shell is a by-product. Many products including mosquito coils are made using those shells," he added.
Md Anwar, the owner of a nursery, said that cocomas and coco-dust is made from coir for growing vegetables for roof gardening. They also now use coco-dust instead of soil to produce small seedlings, he added.
There are two coconut oil mills in Lakshmipur BSCIC Industrial City. Shahriar Islam Khan, extension officer of the city, said the factories were on the verge of closing due to the lack of coconuts.
Regarding the decline in coconut production, Abdur Rahim, a coconut trader in Haidorganj Bazar of Raipur upazila, said people prefer green coconut always as a soft drink.
"But after the outbreak of coronavirus, there was a huge demand for green coconuts across the country. And the demand has increased the price, while the farmers are selling the green coconuts before they ripen or mature."
Therefore, coconut production has come down to almost zero, he said adding that the coconuts were now sold in super shops as well.
Yusuf Zaman, a businessman of Haidorganj, said he used to buy about 15,000 coconuts a day from Char Bangshi Union in Raipur. However, he could not buy a single mature coconut from the area last year. Instead, about 15,000 green coconuts were sold from the area.
Coconut farmer Rahman of Dalal Bazar in Lakshmipur Sadar upazila said that now each coconut is being sold at Tk27-30. But each green coconut is being sold at Tk35-40.
It takes around two months to produce a green coconut, while it takes at least four months to produce a coconut. Moreover, the price of a coconut is low as well
"It takes around two months to produce a green coconut, while it takes at least four months to produce a coconut. Moreover, the price of a coconut is low as well. So, the farmers are selling green coconuts instead of ripe coconuts," he said.
Coconut trader Md Abdul Quader said, he sends about 20,000 coconuts to Dhaka every day. There were 20 more green coconut traders like him in the district, he added.
Md Shipon, another green coconut trader, said that at least two lakh pieces of green coconuts are being sold from Lakshmipur district in different parts of the country every day, with a market value of at least Tk60-70 lakh.
At least two lakh pieces of green coconuts are being sold from Lakshmipur district in different parts of the country every day, with a market value of at least Tk60-70 lakh
Lakshmipur District Agriculture Extension Officer Abul Hossain said coconuts worth around Tk350 crore were sold from Laxmipur last year. But last year, only green coconuts were sold worth Tk400 crore, he added.
Lakshmipur is one of the main coconut producing districts in the country. The district has sold coconuts worth around Tk350-400 crore annually in the last few years.