Cyclone ‘Bulbul’ dealt a heavy blow to the dreams of hundreds of tomato growers in the coastal district as farmers now stare at bleak future scratching their heads to find ways to repay loans.
The situation on the ground was devastating in Charbaniari, Paschimpara, Krishnanagar, Bawalipara, Dakkhinpara, Santoshpur, Kharamkhali, Umajuri and Dakatia areas of Chitalmari upazila.The green, frail branches of tomato plants have become pale and dried up.
“I don’t know how I’ll repay my loans,” said a frustrated Chittaranjan Basu of Krishnanagar village in Chitalmari, who cultivated tomato on 25 bighas land spending over Tk 2 lakh.
Bablu Basu, another tomato grower of Charbaniari area, said he cultivated tomato on 13 bighas land spending over Tk 1 lakh.
“All the plants have been killed by cyclone ‘Bulbul’. I could’ve earned Tk 6 to 7 lakh but now my only headache is to repay the loan I took for cultivation,” Bablu said.
Farmers said agriculture officials are yet to visit the area.
They cultivated different varieties of hybrid tomato like Lovely, Beauty-1, 2, Panpata, Haitom, Beautiful and Bipul Glass, among others.Tomatoes are usually harvested after 60 to 70 days of planting. The crop can be harvested for three months continuously.
Chitalmari farmers said they cultivated tomato by taking loans because of its high profit margin but their hardships went in vein.
Ashim Kumar Das, officer of Chitalmari Upazila Department of Agricultural Extension, said over 16,000 farmers cultivated eight varieties of tomatoes on over 4,350 hectares land in the upazila this year.
Last year, 22,780mts tomato were produced on 1,655 hectares in the upazila, he added.
Ashim said they wrote to higher officials to arrange compensation for the farmers. Meanwhile, DAE has allotted Tk 6 lakh for the affected farmers in the upazila.
Raghunath Kor, deputy director of Chitalmari DAE, said tomatoes on 900 bighas among 9,000 Bighas were damaged in Chitalmari, Kachua and Fakirhat upazilas because of cyclone ‘Bulbul’.
The farmers were advised to put clay at the roots of tomato plants with some green leaves that were damaged during the cyclone, he added.
Kor said they received donation to compensate the affected farmers from the concerned Upazila Parishads.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque on November 12 said ‘Bulbul’ damaged Aman paddy and winter vegetables in 103 upazilas of 16 coastal districts.
“Crops on 289,006 hectares were damaged, which accounts for 14 percent of the country’s total farmland,” he added.
The ministry will adopt a rehabilitation programme in the affected areas shortly, after receiving allocation from the Finance Ministry, he added.