Watermelon growers in Khulna are suffering losses due to abnormally low prices despite record summer fruit production.
Instead of looking for profit, manufacturers are now worried about recouping production costs. They partly blame their pricing problems on a network of average traders.
They complain that the syndicate is buying fruits at a very low price to sell them in the city’s markets for high profits.
However, avoiding intermediaries is not as easy as it might seem.
In interviews with some producers, it turned out that they have to pay 15,000-25,000 tk each for renting a truck to transport watermelons, in addition to paying loaders. Most manufacturers cannot afford this kind of cost.
The price of watermelons has dropped significantly since the month of Ramadan, and sales of thirst-quenching fruits in local markets are low.
To make up for the losses, some of them were seen delivering their products to the cities of Dhaka and Khulna, but were unable to obtain the desired prices.
Farmers have grown watermelons on 13,990 hectares of land this year, according to the Khulna Agricultural Extension Department.
Of these, 7,625 ha are in Dakop Upazila, 3,600 ha in Botiagata, 1,510 ha in Paikgasa, 895 ha in Koira, 350 ha in Dumuria, 5 ha in Rupsha, 3 ha in Terohada, 1 ha in Fultola and Capital District . district.
In 2021, a total of 7,512 hectares of land were set aside for watermelon cultivation, and as watermelon cultivation has proved profitable, farmers have expanded their areas.
It is estimated that 415,000 tons of watermelons were produced in the area this year.
Abu Sayyed, a grower of watermelons, said: “I cultivated 10 bighas of land and most of the watermelons lying on my lands. One watermelon weighing 5-10 kg is sold for 10-20 tk, and in the local market the same watermelon is sold for 30-40 tk per kg.”
Quamrul Islam, another farmer, said: “I have grown watermelons on my ten bighas of land and now I have no idea what to do with them. If I want to deliver them to Dhaka at my own expense, I have to pay another 25,000-30,000 Tk as transportation costs. I will not refund a quarter of the cost of production.»
Babul Sheikh, another farmer from Choto Chalna, said: “I gave five bighas of land to grow watermelons, but I still cannot sell my products because of the low price. Not a single merchant showed interest in buying my crop from the field. Now all my watermelons are rotting .»
Utpal Sana, a farmer from Banishanta, said: «It takes 30,000-35,000 tk to cultivate one bigha of land, but the merchants refuse to pay us more than 20,000 tk.»
Farmers in the Choto Chalna, Panholi, Mukhali and Tildang districts face the same problems.
Manufacturers are currently looking for markets in Dhaka, Bogra, Chittagong and Rajshahi to sell their products.
Hafizur Rahman, deputy director of the DAE, said the price of watermelon was good before the month of Ramadan and fell after Eid-ul-Fitr, disappointing farmers .
Shahrier Akunji, a senior agricultural marketing officer in the Khulna district, said farmers did not receive the desired price because they were unable to sell it from their field. In addition, transport costs are higher, he added.
“We have taken steps to purchase watermelons directly from the fields, which can recoup their losses. Initially, producers of Dakop and Botiagat upazila will be able to sell their products directly from the fields,” he said.