With sales wilted by the pandemic and then devastated by the super cyclone Amphan, flower growers in Jashore are now pinning their hopes on winter sales.
They said the flower market showed positivity centring the Martyred Intellectuals Day and Victory Day on 14 and 16 December respectively, and hoped the winter sales for wedding and other social occasions would join the rally.
Jashore's Godkhali – also known as the country's flower capital – usually sees a rise in flower demand ahead of national occasions and other local celebrations. But with a countrywide virus-led shutdown in place, the flower growers incurred a massive loss this year.
In an unprecedented turn of events, they had to graze the unsold produce to cattle this year. In the third week of May, Cyclone Amphan hit south-western Bangladesh leaving thousands of the growers in limbo.
Bangladesh Flower Society President Abdur Rahim said farmers of the areas cultivated flowers on 6,500 hectares of land this season. But the pandemic-led restrictions caused their sales to plummet.
"The loss due to the pandemic and the cyclone is unprecedented this year. However, sales on 14 and 16 December worth at least Tk50 lakh would help the sector turn around," said Rahim.
The society president said they would sell flowers worth Tk2 crore on the two days in normal time.
Commercial flower cultivation started in Godkhali in Jhikargachha upazila of Jashore in the 1980s. It later turned into the largest wholesale flower market in Bangladesh.
Wholesalers from different regions, including the capital, come to Godkhali to buy flowers. Various types of flowers are cultivated on about 6,500 hectares of land in 75 villages of Jashore district.
Every day, hundreds of flower cultivators from local villages bring their produce to Godkhali market. In pre-pandemic time, wholesalers would throng the market just after the sunrise.
From there, the products would then spread all over the country, even outside the country, through wholesalers and retailers.
But during the pandemic-induced shutdown, the market wore a deserted look. The situation started to change in June as the 66-day shutdown ended on 31 May.
This season, Godkhali flower grower Rahmat Gazi cultivated winter roses on nearly 1 acre of land. He sold the flower at Tk4 per piece on the eve of Martyred Intellectuals Day and Victory Day.
"The profit was marginal," Rahmat commented.
Farmers said per acre gerbera flower cultivation costs around Tk36 lakh while tuberose cultivation costs Tk2.5 lakh, roses Tk4.5 lakh, gladiolus Tk4 lakh, and marigold Tk2.30 lakh.
Jahangir Hossain, a farmer from Patuapara area of Jhikargachha, said he had to take loans due to the pandemic-led business slump. He, however, sounded hopeful over sales on the two days.
In Godkhali, there are at least 5,000 flower cultivators. Only 55 of them got government stimulus while others had to resort to loans by non-governmental organisations. Some cultivators said they sold a portion of their land to make ends meet during the pandemic-led business slump.
Local Agriculture Officer Masum Hossain Palash said flowers have been cultivated on 6,500 hectares of land this time.
"The growers were affected by the pandemic and cyclone. We hope they will come out of the fallout as the sales have started to pick up," he added.
Badal Chandra, deputy director of Jashore Regional Agriculture Office, said though the cultivators sustained pandemic and disaster shocks, they have started to turn around owing to sales picked up recently.
He said the government distributed food items among 500 affected flower cultivators, and they were mulling further aid after identifying the actual flower growers.