Farmers of Arial Beel's large-sized sweet pumpkins are not getting the price they expected as they have missed the peak selling season due to a delayed harvest of the vegetable this year.
Because other vegetable items have become available in the market by this time, the demand for these giant pumpkins has come down, according to farmers of Arial Beel – a water body that encompasses Srinagar upazila of Munshiganj, and Nababganj and Dohar of Dhaka.
Seeds of this special kind of pumpkins are usually sowed in October after the monsoon is over. But last year, the cultivation was delayed by one and a half months due to prolonged flooding.
Flood water receded from the beel in October and then it took another month to prepare the land for cultivation.
After sowing the seeds, it takes three months to harvest the pumpkins.
The season for harvesting the pumpkins usually starts in January, but this year the farmers are harvesting the pumpkins now owing to the delay.
The price of the pumpkins go up to Tk30 per kilogram based on their demand in the market. This year, however, the farmers are selling pumpkins to wholesalers at Tk6 per kg only.
Barshed Ali, a farmer from Sridharpur area, said, "I have been cultivating this big-sized variety in the beel for 35 years. It tastes very good as well. So, people from different places come here to buy the pumpkins.
"A pumpkin is sold even at Tk5,000 depending on its size. But we are not getting the expected price this year. The cost of cultivation on 35 decimals of land is Tk15,000. This year, only Tk20,000-25,000 can be earned by selling pumpkins produced on 35 decimals of land. What is the benefit of working for three months for this amount of money?"
Pumpkins grown in Arial Beel range from 10kg to even 180kg.
Md Babu, another farmer of Gadirghat area, said the vegetable had been harvested 15-20 days late this year. The price was low now, he said.
Another farmer Monir Hossain said since they had seen a very good yield this year, they could have made a good profit if they could sell the pumpkins at Tk10-12 a kg.
In this regard, wholesaler Liton Sheikh said he was buying pumpkins at Tk6 per kg and selling them in Dhaka at Tk12 per kg.
"I have to spend Tk7,000 for hiring a four-tonne truck to carry the pumpkins to Dhaka. Around 6,000-7,000 kilograms of pumpkins can be carried by the truck.
"Besides, there were other expenditures, including the costs of renting boats and labour wages," he added.
The delayed harvest of the pumpkins has affected the income of wholesalers as well, according to Liton.
"This year, the profit from the sale of a truck of pumpkins is below Tk20,000, which is much lower compared to the previous year," said Liton.
Wholesalers sell the pumpkins in different markets of Dhaka city, including Karwan Bazar and Mirpur.
Buyers from six upazilas of Munshiganj and other adjacent districts also purchase pumpkins from the farmers of Arial Beel.
Last year, 11,240 tonnes of sweet pumpkins were produced in the beel, according to farmers. They have seen a good yield this year too.
On a recent visit to the beel area in Srinagar, The Business Standard found farmers were busy collecting sweet pumpkins from the vast land of the beel that become fertile land during winter.
Farmers said 10-12 saplings of pumpkins could be planted on 14 decimals of land. Each plant gives 20 to 60 pumpkins.
Shantana Rani, agriculture officer of Srinagar upazila, said, "This year, pumpkins have been planted on about 190 hectares of land. Although the harvesting of the pumpkins is completed at the end of January and the beginning of February every year, the harvesting has not been completed as yet this year. The delay may have resulted in lower prices of the vegetable in the market."
She further added that the pumpkin of Arial Beel is a native variety.
"Many farmers of the area preserve seeds of the sweet pumpkins. If the pumpkin seeds of the area are sowed in any other part of the country, the pumpkins produced there differ in size and taste."