The sales of seasonal fruits, such as mango and litchi, have got momentum in the northern part of Bangladesh – the country's "capital of fruits", and the prices are also high.
Notably, the online sales of mangoes have increased amid a growing public concern over the physical trade due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 86,000 growers and traders are selling the fruits in Rajshahi keeping in mind a possible loss because of the damage done recently by cyclone Amphan to their orchards.
Farmers said the super cyclone caused half the mangoes and litchis falling off the trees. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) said 15 percent of mangoes in Rajshahi and 22 percent of litchis in Pabna fell off from trees during the cyclone.
During a visit to the country's second-largest mango trading hub, Baneshwar in Rajshahi, The Business Standard saw Gopalbhog mangoes were selling for Tk2,000-2,400 per maund while Lakhna for Tk700 a maund, Himsagar or Khirsapat for Tk1,400-1,600 a maund and Langra for Tk1,600 a maund. Meanwhile, Guti Mango was trading for Tk600-1,200 per maund depending on quality.
Abdur Razzak, a mango trader from Rajshahi's Katakhali, said the price of mangoes this year is higher than last year's and farmers will be benefited although the yield is low.
But the coin has its other side too.
Altaf Hossain Badsha, another mango farmer from Arani, said, "So far, I have lost Tk1 lakh by selling 1,000 maunds of mangoes."
Meanwhile, litchi farmers said they might face high losses due to low yields.
Ashraful Islam, from Rajshahi's Boro Bangram, said, "I cultivated litchi on 35 bighas of land. Almost 50 percent of the fruit fell off."
"All our litchis have been sold in Dhaka for Tk1,800-2,300 per one thousand pieces."
Shamsul Haque, deputy director of Rajshahi DAE, said, due to Amphan, Tk110 crore has been lost and this year's mango production target will not be met.
Mango groves were also nurtured on 17,686 hectares of land in Rajshahi, he said, adding that litchi has been grown in 500 hectares of land in Rajshahi.
The production cost is around 60 to 70 paisa per litchi while the fruit is selling for Tk200-240 per hundred pieces.
Nazrul Islam, deputy director of Chapainawabganj DAE, said mango harvesting starts in Chapainawabganj after a week of that in Rajshahi. There was no damage due to Amphan. Chapainawabganj mangoes will go to Dhaka from June 13 by postal trucks without costs and by special parcel trains.
Special mango trains, postal trucks to cut carrying costs
The government has introduced "Special Mango Train Service" from Friday at low fares and "Free Truck Service" to heal the loss faced by the mango farmers due to Amphan.
Every day, a cargo train will carry 270 tonnes of goods in six wagons. It will cost Tk1.30 and Tk1.17 respectively to carry a kilogramme of goods from Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi to Dhaka.
Fuad Hossain, divisional commercial officer of Western Railway, said 75 crates (1 crate = 20-25kg mangoes) have been booked so far.
Hamidul Haque, deputy commissioner of Rajshahi, said the government has taken the initiative to transport mangoes by trucks without fares for the welfare of small and marginal farmers. They can avail the opportunity by contacting respective upazila agriculture officers.
Amphan impact on Pabna's litchi orchards
Perth Hasan from Pabna reports: Cyclone Amphan has caused a loss of around Tk150 crore to Pabna farmers.
Russell Hossain, a litchi orchard owner in Pakshi village, said, "I bought 10 orchards with a bank loan. This time, litchi orchards were damaged by Amphan, causing me a loss of about Tk50 lakh."
Azhar Ali, deputy director of Pabna Department of Agricultural Extension, said litchi has been grown on 4,600 hectares of land in Pabna this season. About 800-1,000 hectares of orchards have been damaged by Amphan.
Litchi price in Dinajpur lower
Sunny Sarkar from Dinajpur reports: Although litchi growers in Dinajpur saw a bumper production, it will be difficult to overcome the loss for lower prices due to Covid-19 crisis.
Traders from different districts, including Dhaka and Chattogram, cannot come to buy their produce.
Every 1,000 Madrasi variety of litchi sold for Tk1,500-1,600 in Dinajpur while Bombay variety for Tk1,400-1,800, Bedena variety for Tk3,500-4,200 and China-3 variety for Tk4,500-5,000.
Touhidul Iqbal, deputy director of the Dinajpur DAE, said there are litchi orchards in about 5,000 hectares of land in the district where 50,000-60,000 tonnes are produced every year.
Now, litchis can be easily transported to different parts of the country as the shutdown is relaxed.