- Every year, seedlings worth Tk40 crore are sold
- This year, seedlings worth only Tk10 crore have been sold
- 250 nurseries in 20 villages covering 250 bighas of land
- Generally, every thousand seedlings are sold at Tk1,500 to Tk2,500
- This year, every thousand seedlings are selling at only Tk300 to Tk700
Bogura's Shajahanpur Upazila has long been supplying vegetable seedlings in the country as the largest vegetable nursery in Bangladesh. The nursery, which initially started in Shahnagar village of the upazila some 36 years ago, later spread to nearby villages.
The business had been thriving with seedlings worth more than Tk40 crore getting sold every year.
But this year, despite satisfactory seedling production, untimely rains and floods have adversely impacted businesses, resulting in sales worth only Tk10 crore, which indicates a loss of at least Tk30 crore.
Both the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and traders agree that due to the late floods this year, the island chars have not begun the cultivation process yet and as the rains have continued well beyond the monsoon season, most lands have not yet been prepared for farming.
Currently, seedlings of various vegetables, including cauliflowers, cabbages, tomatoes, eggplants, papayas, and hybrid peppers are produced in more than 250 nurseries covering 250 bighas of land in at least 20 villages under the upazila.
Every year, the businesses in Shahnagar tend to be abuzz from July to September as farmers from around the country come to purchase saplings of winter vegetables, but it has not been like that this year.
Mominul Islam, general secretary, Shahjahanpur Nursery Owners' Association, said in this season at least 1,700 kilograms of chilli seedlings were produced in the nurseries along with some 100 kilograms of cauliflowers and 50 kilograms of tomatoes, among other vegetables.
But despite such great numbers in terms of production, sales are extremely low.
The nursery owners said the low sale rates have been negatively impacting prices as well. Last year, every thousand seedlings were sold at Tk1,500 to Tk2,500 but this year, every thousand seedlings are being sold at only Tk300 to Tk700.
Abujar Rahman, a nursery owner, said, "I planted around 20 kilograms of chilli seeds on four and a half bighas of land this year, spending Tk8 lakh. But so far, I have only managed to sell seedlings worth Tk2 lakh."
Montejar Rahman, another nursery owner from the upazila's Durulia area, said he had planted seeds of various winter vegetables on over three and a half bighas of land this year through spending Tk2 lakh. But he only made around Tk80,000 after selling the seedlings.
"I sold every thousand seedlings this year at Tk200 to Tk600 but last year, I sold them at Tk1,800 to Tk2,200," he said.
Owing to poor sales, many nursery owners were forced to destroy the seedlings in the fields.
Others started to prepare new seedbeds after removing the unsold seedlings. According to the nursery owners, if seedlings are not replanted in new fields within 30 – 40 days of sowing, they tend to grow flowers and are thus damaged.
Amjad Hossain, president, Shahjahanpur Nursery Owners' Association, said the damage faced by nursery owners this year is partially due to unfavourable weather conditions and also because of the pandemic.
Hossain said without government support, it will be hard for the nursery owners to turn their businesses around.
However, Shahjahanpur Upazila Agriculture Officer Nur e Alam said that as most nursery owners have started making new seedbeds, sales are picking up.
"If weather conditions remain favourable, the traders will be able to reduce their losses a bit," he added.