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Sylhet farmers upset over low Boro prices

Boro farmers in Sylhet region are not getting the fair prices of their produce thanks to market manipulation by the middlemen and wholesalers.

The growers are frustrated as the middlemen and wholesalers are buying newly-harvested paddy from the fields as well as the local markets at low prices by applying various trickeries.

Presently per maund of Boro paddy is being sold at Tk800 toTk900 at the field level although it was over Tk1,000 just a year ago, locals said. Consequently, the poor and marginal farmers will have to count a sizable loss.

Contacted, an official at the Sylhet divisional office of the Department of Agricultural Extension said on average 57 per cent Boro paddy has been harvested so far in the division.

Of the total paddy harvested, 81 per cent is in the haor areas and 19 per cent in the non-haor areas. It will take 10 days more to finish harvesting rest of the paddy. As there is a forecast of storm and heavy rain causing inundation, the farmers have already been asked by the government to complete the Boro paddy harvest by May 7.

Farmers are now harvesting Boro paddy in all the districts of the region with a great gusto.

The scenes of cutting, drying and thrashing paddy are now very common in the fields of all the four districts with a good number of females working alongside the males. Cutting paddy by using combined harvesters has been on the rise in the region as both money and time can be saved through the process.

About 1,400 combined harvesters are in operation at the present time in the region, official sources said.

The farmers are happy saving about Tk600 from harvesting paddy on one bigha of land at comparatively less time.

Meanwhile, the Food Department has announced to start the paddy procurement drive on May 7 across the country.

Price of per kg Boro paddy has been fixed at Tk32 for the programme, informed an official at the Sylhet divisional controller of food.

But the farmers will have to wait for a week for the government drive to begin.

They cannot wait for that since the poor and marginal peasants have to repay the loans taken from lenders.

They are compelled to sell out the major part of the produce for repaying debts, taken earlier on interest.

As it is a common practice in the haor areas of Sunamganj, the poor and marginal farmers take money from the lenders at the rate of Tk720 for one maund of paddy. Accordingly, the farmers will have to repay the loans with paddy now.

Gofur Uddin, a farmer of Sunamganj, said, “We have no other option but to sell paddy at the field level to meet the expenses as well as to repay the loans.”

On average the farmers are bound to sell over 60 to 70 per cent of the produce in the fields.

Rafiqul Karim, another farmer of Sunamganj, said, “The government starts buying paddy after several weeks of harvest. We have to sell out the crop meantime. The middlemen as well as the wholesalers have a full control over the market.”