Farmers in Chuadanga are in dire straits as the harvesting of jute has come to a standstill, thanks to the lack of proper facilities for decomposing jute plants, including a water crisis.
They fear huge losses this year if the water crisis persists as fine quality fibres cannot be extracted without properly retting jute plants. They may incur losses of about Tk3,000-4,000 per bigha of land.
Farmers' suffering doubled because of the water crisis coupled with low market price of jute. If the market price is low, jute farmers in the district may lose about Tk4.5 crore.
Jute growers could not decompose jute due to a shortage of water caused by low rainfalls even in the middle of Sraban (the beginning of August).
Retting of jute plants is hampered as canals, rivers, ditches, and ponds in the district are drying up due to water scarcity, jute growers said.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Chuadanga, jute has been cultivated on 20,527 hectares of land this year while it was cultivated on 16,730 hectares last year.
Jute has been cultivated on 1,050 hectares in Chuadanga Sadar upazila, 7,245 hectares in Alamdanga, 10,535 hectares in Damurhuda, and 1,697 hectares in Jibannagar upazila.
Farmers are not cutting jute although it is time to harvest the crop. Even if some farmers cut jute, the crop is drying up in the field due to the scarcity of water.
From planting seeds to growing the jute -- including buying seeds, fertilisers and pesticides, laborers' wages--, the cost of cultivating jute in every bigha of land is Tk10,000-12,000.
Farmers have to pay Tk7-8 for decomposing one bundle of jute under the knee-deep water in the pond. There is an additional cost to hire workers and vehicles to take jute from distant fields. Workers have to pay Tk350-Tk400 per day which is about Tk150 more than other times.
The DAE has set a target of 71,844 tonnes of jute production from 20,527 hectares of land this season. There may be a loss of Tk3,000-Tk4,000 per bigha due to the water scarcity alone.
Jute is sold for Tk1,400 to Tk1,900 per maund. Farmers may face losses due to low prices. Last year, the price of jute was Tk3,000-Tk6,000 per maund.
The jute farmers in the district may lose about Tk4.5 crore as retting of jute plants is hampered by poor rainfall.
Nasir Uddin, a jute farmer from Damurhuda upazila, said this time they are in dire straits by cultivating jute. This year he has cultivated jute on five bighas of land with loan. Jute is drying up in the land as there is no water anywhere.
"If there is a loss, I will cultivate another crop instead of jute."
Abdul Awal, another farmer of Muktarpur village in Damurhuda upazila, said he had to spend Tk10,000-Tk12,000 in cultivating jute on one bigha of land. He has to count the loss of Tk3,000-Tk4,000, pushing him in dire straits.
Joynal Hossain, the owner of a jute warehouse in the Damurhuda police station area, said farmers are bringing a small volume of jute. He is buying jute at Tk1,600-Tk2,000 per maund depending on quality. The price of wet jute is a bit lower. Farmers are not able to harvest jute due to the scarcity of water.
Sufi Md Rafiquzzaman, acting deputy director of Chuadanga DAE office, said due to low rainfalls, the farmers are facing problems in rotting green jute this year. Without proper harvesting, the jute industry has to face problems with the bad quality of fibre.
"We asked the farmers to decompose jute in government-owned beels and rivers. In the ribbon retting method, the fibre can be removed from the stem by decomposing the jute in a little water. Farmers will get good prices if they can harvest the jute properly."