Coconut farmers in Barishal are worried about a sudden attack by a type of insect which results in the trees drying up. The divisional agriculture office says that almost all the coconut trees in the division have been attacked by the insects. Farmers said hundreds of trees have already dried up, and more trees may face the same consequence if immediate action is not taken.
Coconut farmers in the division earn a handsome amount of money from these trees round-the-year. Moreover, some farmers earn a living through it. All of them are concerned about this attack by insects and how to counter it.
Initially, farmers thought the problem was natural and would be solved naturally. Later, they came to know from the agriculture office that the name of the insect is "white fly".
"At first, I thought it was natural, but later I learnt that it is an attack by an insect which dries up the leaves and trees," said Shahidul Islam, a coconut farmer from Bakerganj in Barishal.
Md Sultan, a farmer from Rajapur in Jhalakathi, said that for the last few months, most of the coconuts have been falling from the trees after drying up.
"Selling coconuts is my prime source of income. I have never heard of this white insect before," said Majeda Begum, a housewife from Jhalakathi Sadar who earns at least Tk20,000 a year by selling coconuts.
"The name of the insect is 'white fly'. This foreign insect hit Jashore last year, but on a very mild scale. Neighbouring countries India and Nepal were also attacked by the insect," Said Mahabubur Rahman, a scientific research officer at the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute, Barishal.
The flies attack leaves and dry up the leaves within a few days. Consequently, the tree becomes weaker because it cannot produce its food with the dry leaves, he added.
"We have already started working on it and trying to find a solution. As an experiment, we are spraying insecticide on the leaves of the trees at our research garden. We are also suggesting that farmers spray insecticide on the trees, though it is very difficult as the trees are very tall. If it kills the insects completely, we will recommend it to all farmers," he said further.
There are at least five lakh coconut trees in Barishal division, which brings at least Tk500 crore a year, according to the agriculture office.
After five to seven years of plantation, a coconut tree produces 150 to 250 green coconuts a year. Middlemen buy each coconut for Tk14 to 18 from farmers.