Low paddy price: Farmers burn crop on the field

Special Correspondent
In the face of farmers’ protest by burning paddy in the field, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder on Wednesday assured that paddy will be purchased from marginal farmers at a fair price to avoid any sort of irregularities in the agriculture sector.
The authorities concerned should purchase paddy from the growers directly so that middle men won’t be able to gain through creating unfair situation, he told the inaugural function of paddy at Sutrapur in Bogura.
The government procurement was launched after 20 days of announced date. Meanwhile, the growers were compelled to sale their rice at price much lower to their production cost On the other hand, growers had to incur further loss due to increased labour coast in the face of labour scarcity in rural areas.
However, failing to get a fair price, farmers set fire to the standing paddy crop on the field . At least three such incidents were reported from Tangail and Mymenshingh
Wahidul Islam, a farmer of Mymensingh’s Phulpur upazila, burnt his paddy fields ob Wednesday. Wahidul Islam said market price of paddy was much lower to the production cost. He was also facing difficulty to harvest the crop due to scarcity of labours for reaping paddy
He said “Wages of labour are increasing day by day. A man-day labour cost is almost the double in this peak season against Tk. 500 to Tk. 600 in the earlier year. However, prices of paddy have fallen to Tk. 400 from Tk. 600 in the last 10 days,” said the farmer. Wahidul also expressed anger as those who buy paddy from farmers pay the price one and two months later. He said finding no other way, he set fire to his paddy fields.
On May 12, a farmer in Tangail’s Kalihati had set his paddy field on fire in protest against low price. Protesting the fall in coarse paddy prices and the scarcity of day labour, Abdul Malek Shikder of Bankina village in Kalahati upazila took this path of protest.
Abdul Malek said the government has fixed the price of coarse paddy at Tk. 500 per maund. They have to pay a day labourer Tk. 850 a day to harvest paddy. There are others costs too to process the paddy. They cannot even find day labourers at such high wages.
On May 13, another farmer, Nazrul Islam, in Tangail’s Basail upazila had set his paddy field on fire in protest against low price.
A group of students at Rajshahi University also expressed solidarity with the farmers by spreading paddy on the road while organizing a human chain on the campus on Wednesday.
Talking to media, Agriculture minister Dr Abdur Razzaque, said the situation is very critical. Farmers are incurring massive losses as they are not getting fair prices in the local markets as the harvesting of boro paddy has begun across the country.
The high-ups in the government are trying to find ways to protect the farmers’ interests, he added. Food minister Shadhan Mujumder said the government has decided to establish 200 paddy silos across the country on the occasion of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Farmers would benefit from these silos from next year, he added.
Students’ welcome initiative
Meanwhile Students are voluntarily harvesting paddy in Tangail and Mymensingh to help farmers who are hit hard by low price.
Lately, the farmers’ plight came to limelight as media reports of a farmer in Tangail’s Kalihati spraying kerosene on a part of his field and setting fire to ripe paddy had surfaced. The farmer, Abdul Malek Shikder, said the burden of low price had led him to do it.
Triggered by a video of the incident, a dozen students of Government Saadat College, Government MM Ali College, and Lion Nazrul Islam College on Wednesday voluntarily worked on Abdul Malek’s field.
“I had set my paddy field on fire out of frustration. But I did not expect that this would move so many hearts. I am quite surprised and happy to see the students,” Malek told the media.
“There is little scope for farmers to profit this year. We are harvesting paddy for him in solidarity with his protest,” said Al Amin, a student of Government MM Ali College.
Members of Herald Open Scout Group are lending their hands to farmers at Mymensingh’s Phulpur upazila.
On Wednesday, student volunteers worked on a 60-decimal cropland owned by Shahida Akter at Horirampur village. A widow, Shahida said, “I was in a lot of trouble. Assistance from the scouts brought relief.”
On Monday, similar activities were done on 80 decimal land of farmer Abu Bakar Siddique, who is suffering from cancer.
Herald Open Scout Group were aiming to help at least 25 farmers, the group’s co-chairman Atiqur Rahman Atik said.
Member Secretary Tashfiq Haque opined that there were not enough initiatives in place to ensure fair prices of crops.
President Md Abdul Khaleque said, “Harvesting paddy is not an easy task and the children [the students] do not know how to handle the job. So, we are supervising them.”
“We will continue this activity for the for the next 10 days,” said Khaleque, also a member of the district council.
Md Abdul Mazed, deputy director at the Department of Agricultural Extension in Mymensingh, said, “This year, farmers across the country are facing a tough situation as they have to pay a day labourer Tk 800-1000. But the price of paddy is ranging between Tk 400-500 per maund [40 kilograms] which is around Tk 200 less than the production cost.”

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