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Pabna's Ishwardi upazila

Litchi, mango pods withering for persistent drought

Farmers apprehensive of a massive crop failure

OUR CORRESPONDENT | April 19, 2024 00:00:00

PABNA, Apr 18: Litchi and mango pods are falling off from the trees due to severe drought and intense heat in Pabna district's Ishwardi upazila, which is known as the capital of litchi.

Watering at the base of the trees cannot stop rotting of the little fruits. As a result, farmers fear that production of the two summer fruits will fall short of target this season.

Ishwardi is famous for producing juicy and mouthwatering litchi. Litchi trees start budding in mid-Baishakh and the buds grow into green pods in the month of Chaitra.

There was a record production of buds in each mango and litchi tree this year; and pods also grew in abundance. So, this time the farmers were hoping for a good yield of both the fruits.

But for around last three weeks, litchi and mango pods have kept falling from the trees in a large number under the impact of the persisting hot weather, leaving no chance for expected yield for the farmers.

Litchi plantations are commonplace in Rajapur, Tingacha, Bangara, Bakhtarpur, Jagannathpur, Bansherbada, Joynagar, Mirkamari, Maniknagar, Sahapur, Awtapara and Charsahapur villages of the upazila- which present a sight of litchi gardens in rows. This year, production of litchi pods was more than previous years, with almost every tree giving the same view.

But adverse weather condition, including severe drought and scorching heat, are destroying

the litchi pods in a large number, creating possibility of a massive crop failure.

Litchi grower Roshan Ali of Rajapur village in Ishwardi upazila raised a litchi garden on his 20 bighas of land. He said, "This time, a record number of buds came in my litchi trees. But in the dry heat of Chaitra, litchi pods are falling. If the fall continues like this, our (litchi farmers') dream of a good yield will be shattered."

He added due to prolonged drought for 22 consecutive days, the litchi pods are being destroyed this way. Even by spraying water and medicine at night and in the morning, it is not possible to prevent the disease. The weather is very hot during the day and cold at night. Due to this heat and cold, litchi pods are meeting this ill fate.

Rafiqul Islam, an ideal litchi farmer of Bansherbada village of the upazila, said, "I have a litchi garden on two and a half bighas of land. I can't stop litchis from falling even after draining the entire garden with a plow and soaking it with water."

He said that last year the shallow machine owner charged Tk2,000 per hour but now he has to pay Tk2,500. Besides, the price of pesticides has increased exorbitantly. Even after spending a lot of money, he has failed to find a way out.

He earned Tk7,24,000 from his garden last year. He expressed doubt whether Tk0.2 million could be recovered from the cost this time.

Champa Khatun, a widowed litchi farmer of Bangara village, has got tired watering her two-and-a-half-bigha litchi garden. She said there is no money left to water in the garden.

Biplab Hossain and Aslam Hossain of Tingacha village have bought water six times for spraying in litchi garden on 22 bigha land. Watering is being poured but instantly the soil is immediately absorbing the water.

They expressed doubt that even a quarter of litchi could not be available, let alone a good yield.

Mostafizur Rahman, a resident of Jinnakudi village in Chirirbandar upazila of Dinajpur, which is famous for litchi production, expressing utter disappointment, said, "Last year I sold litchi from 70 trees of my garden for Tk2,70,000. But almost all the pods have fallen due to severe drought this year. I couldn't stop the damage even by spraying a lot of water. The garden is not being sold even for Tk40,000."

Pesticide and fertiliser traders of Ishwardi market said due to severe drought, litchi pods are falling. Farmers come to them for advice to prevent the disease (called smallpox). They are contacting the agriculture officials and giving pesticides to the farmers.

Ishwardi Upazila Agriculture Officer Mita Sarkar said, "As the weather was favourable in the month of Baishakh, every litchi tree had good buds. The agriculture department also hoped for a good yield of litchi. But due to severe drought and intense heat, litchi pods are falling off. In such a situation, we are giving advice to the farmers to take proper care of the litchi garden and use pesticides as needed to prevent litchis from falling."

Deputy Director of the Department of Agricultural Extension, Pabna, Dr Md Jamal Uddin told The Financial Express, "There are 4,721 hectares of litchi orchards in Pabna district and the production target was set at 37,768 tonnes. Mango orchards are on 2,730 hectares and the production target is 40,900 tonnes. Appropriate advice is being given to the farmers to retain the mango and litchi pods."

Farmers are advised that by spraying adequate quantity of water at the base of the plants it is possible to prevent falling of the pods.

Assistant agriculture officers visit the gardens round the clock and advise the farmers.

However, due to this year's severe drought, the production target could not be met due to the falling of litchi and mango pods, the agriculture officials apprehended.

It is to be noted that after prolonged dry heat in Pabna region, the mercury reached an extreme level here on Wednesday. The highest temperature recorded here on the day was 40.6 degrees Celsius. This was the highest temperature in Pabna this season.

Nazmul Haque Ranjan, observer of Meteorological Office in Pabna's Ishwardi, told The Financial Express that severe drought and heat wave have been continuing in Pabna region for quite some time. Intense heat started in Pabna on Wednesday. The maximum temperature was recorded at 40.6 degrees Celsius at 3pm on the day. If there is no rainfall, temperature will rise. The official also said that there was no forecast of rain.

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