Sunday, June 7, 2009

50pc drop in mango output, Prices dearer, Spraying pesticides rampant

Climate change blamed

Mango growers fear 50 percent drop in production this year in Rajshahi region due to irregular weather pattern.

Horticulturists attributed the sharp slump in mango production to abnormal variations to the climate that has an adverse affect on the Mother Nature.

"Mango yield might drop to around 2.14 lakh tonnes from last year's average 4.28 lakh tonnes", said M Abul Bashar, Rajshahi regional additional director of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE).

The annual average mango production is about five lakh tonnes from over 45,000 hectares of land in eight districts including the mango capital Chapainwabganj where mango grows on the highest 22,000 hectares of land while it is about 8500 hectares in Rajshahi.

The prolonged drought due to change in the climate caused mangoes to ripen earlier, said agriculturist Dr Ittefakul Azad adding, "It eventually affects the taste of mangoes".

"About 30 percent buds are damaged during flowering while over 20 percent mangoes are lost in storm and other natural factors of", said horticulturist SM Quamruzzaman in Natore.

Horticulturist Mohammad Mofazzal Hossain of Kollyanpur Horticulture Center in Chapainawabganj explained that a heavy dense fog instead of hot temperature in early January affected the flowering.

Most of the trees grew new leafs rather than buds and buds in huge quantity were ruined as the chill continued and scanty rainfall since October prolonged the drought affecting the mango yields, he said.

"Mango production was the worst hit by the climate change this year," he added.

Mango growers in Chapainawabganj have their own words for explaining climate change. "We are cursed with Moha this year", said 55-year-old mango grower MA Mazid Fazlu at Kansat.

Horticulturists explained that Moha is a kind of disease appears in the form of mould on leaves. It happens specially when the mist shrouds the nature during summer nights, another change in the weather pattern.

They said that adequate rainfall could save mango trees from this kind of disease.

This correspondent found mango growers worried in Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi as the number of trees bearing fruits is inadequate.

The largest mango markets at Kansat, Bholahat and Sona Mosque roadsides were vacant and a very few traders were found waiting for buyers at Sadarghat in Chapainawabganj town.

"A week of the Jaistha has already elapsed and we are yet to take mangoes to the markets as weather changed the harvesting schedule", said Shawkat Ali, a mango trader.

"I can hardly expect 60 mounds now from the orchards where 300 maunds were yielded last year", said Shahidul Islam at Kansat.

However, at Baneswar market in Rajshahi, Guti mangoes were being sold at Tk 800 to Tk 1000 while Gopalbhog in between Tk 1600 and Tk 1700 per mound.

"I am wondering if I can manage to get half the profit of last year", said Bulbul Islam, a college student and seasonal mango trader at Baneswar.

The authority concerned is doing very little about the adverse effects of climate change on this sector that where a huge number of people find their livelihood especially during the summer season.

Rajshahi regional DAE chief admitted the fact and said it is due the priority given to staple crops paddy and wheat.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Mango turns dearer

Savouring the season's king fruit, mango, may not be a common man's delight this year as low production levels in the north has pushed its prices up, said growers and traders.

Mangoes are selling at 1.5 times higher prices in the local markets, while growers anticipate prices to soar by 30 percent, as mangoes fell from the trees because of the cyclone Aila.

Green mangoes have flooded the markets, including Baneswar in Rajshahi and Kansat in Chapainwabganj, and are selling at Tk 130 to Tk 160 per mound (40kg).

Manzur Hossain, a trader at Baneswar, said they stopped selling mangoes, as they are not finding buyers for the fallen immature mangoes, even at low prices.

Four varieties of mangoes -- Guti, Ati and Gopalbhog and Kirsapat -- have hit the market and prices remain higher than last year.

Gopalbhog, which was available at even Tk 1,600 even last week a mound, is now selling at Tk 1,800 to Tk 2,000 per mound. Price of the variety was Tk 1,000 last year.

The Kirsapat variety hit the market at Tk 1,800 per mound against Tk 1,400 last year.

The well-known Langra will come to market in the next 10 days, followed by the king of mangoes Fazlee, said Arabinda Das, a mango trader at Shaheb Bazar.

Traders hinted that prices of these varieties may rise to a staggering Tk 2,400 per mound this season.

An increased import of mangoes this season from India is unlikely to help control prices, as India too has suffered a blow.

"Traders hinted at doubling the import of mangoes from India because of low output in Bangladesh this year", said Lutfar Rahman, commissioner of Rajshahi Divisional Customs.

He said despite better production last year, over 29,000 tonnes of Indian mangoes worth around Tk 73 crore were imported through the Hili port in Dinajpur and Sona Mosque in Chapainawabganj.

This year, importers brought in 29,000 tonnes of mangoes till May and they hope to import the item worth around Tk 100 crore, bringing in an additional 6,000 tonnes this season.

However, importers expressed anxiety over low yield of the fruit in India.

"Our increased imports may not have much effect on the local market, following a low output in India", said Samar Kumar, a mango importer in Kansat. He already imported some 100 tonnes and started procedures to import more.

In Baneswar, there are some 150 'arats' for mango business, each of which deals with nearly Tk 1 crore daily this season, said Bulbul Hossain, a mango trader.

"We normally sell around 10 to 20 trucks of mangoes a day, from the first week of 'Jaistha'. But this year, we are yet to get buyers from outer districts," said Nakim Uddin of Shahbazpur.

"The supply of mangoes is poor," he said.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rampant spray of pesticides on mango trees

Unaware of health hazards, a worker spraying pesticides on mangoes at an orchard in Kansat upazila of Chapainawabganj. Photo: Anisur Rahman

Most mango growers in Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi districts are using pesticides and other chemicals at least 20 times for 'protection and better yield' against experts' suggestion for three times safe use.

Mindless use of the toxic chemicals in the country's mango zone is posing serious threat to public health as well as to environment and wildlife, thanks to the authorities' lax monitoring and lack of awareness campaign.

"We suggest using pesticides only three times after flowering, when fruits take the size of grams and then at its marble-size," Mohammad Mofazzal Hossain, horticulturist of Kalyanpur Horticulture Centre in Chapainwabganj, said.

If pesticides are applied on fruits, it must not be consumed within 15 days, he said.

During visits to Chapainwabganj, this correspondent saw rampant spraying of pesticides on mango trees.

Several growers said they spray pesticides, fungicides and 'vitamins' over 20 times for protection and making the fruits look colourful.

More chemicals are used when pest attacks are frequent.

Different local brands like Noin, Carbendazime, Aimcozim, Cartap Hydrochloride and even Overmethrin containing Cypermethrin were seen in use.

The highly toxic items, also used as ant and cockroach killers, adds to groundwater contamination.

"We spray these first before flowering for washing the trees, again when fruit appears and then once in every week till harvest," said Shahidul Islam of Sankarmaria in Kansat.

"As per suggestion from pesticide traders, we spray even the day before plucking fruits for marketing," he said.

Mango traders again use chemicals before selling.

Sprayers seldom take any protective measures while handling the poisons.

Liton and Milon, who were seen spraying chemicals at a mango orchard in Sankarmaria with bare hands and legs, said they sometimes feel irritations on skin and eyes.

Contacted, Jamir Uddin, Senior Scientific officer of Regional Horticulture and Research Station, said, "Traders lure growers to overuse pesticides by providing them on credit and it overpowers our limited outreach efforts."

Dr M Rezaul Karim, a biochemistry teacher of Rajshahi University, said eating chemically treated foods can lead to deadly diseases like cancer, hypertension and birth defects.

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