Water scarcity due to significantly reduced rainfall over the past three months threatens to inflict heavy losses on jute growers in the country.
The country’s crucial jute industry is suffering as farmers face difficulties in processing raw jute, particularly due to shortages in local water bodies such as ponds, canals, and de-navigated rivers.
Jute cultivation and production in the country have seen a notable increase in recent years. However, an acute lack of water for jute rotting, combined with an increase in drying jute plants on farmers’ lands, is posing severe challenges.
The rainfall deficit has significantly impacted agriculture, with rainfall 44 per cent lower in May, 16 per cent lower in June, and 58 per cent lower in July, during the peak of the monsoon season, according to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD).
“Despite the drought tendencies affecting our farming, we are undertaking various initiatives to mitigate the impact,” stated Badal Chandra Biswas, the Director General of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).
One such initiative encourages farmers to employ ribbon retting, a method of rotting jute that requires only a small amount of water. However, this solution has been met with limited enthusiasm by farmers who find the method difficult and costly.
Arshaful Biswas, a jute farmer from Kumarkhali in Kushtia, highlighted the hardship faced by farmers.
“Due to the ongoing drought, even in full monsoon, we lack the water necessary for dipping the jute.”
Many farmers have resorted to transporting jute over distances of three to four kilometres for dipping in canals or dead-rivers, significantly escalating production costs due to additional labour and transportation.
Motaleb Mollah, another farmer from Kanaipur in Faridpur, echoed these concerns, citing the drying up of local water bodies due to low rainfall. Mollah also expressed reservations about the ribbon retting method, noting that not only does it result in higher labour costs, but it also reduces the quality of jute stalks and overall production.
“The production reduces by about two maunds per bigha of land when we use the ribbon retting method,” he added.
Some farmers have attempted to circumvent the water shortage by using shallow machines to fill their dried ponds, a solution which also considerably increases costs. In some instances, farmers have resorted to renting water-filled ponds, but this option remains inaccessible to most due to financial constraints.
The water shortage has led to widespread damage to jute plants in fields and has particularly impacted marginal farmers, many of whom have been rendered almost pathless.
Despite these challenges, the DAE has set an ambitious target for the current year. The production of jute was 84.577 lakh tonnes from 7.299 lakh hectares of land in FY 2022-23, while this year’s target is 89.873 lakh tonnes from 7.640 lakh hectares of land.
However, given the prevailing water crisis, the attainment of this target remains uncertain.
Source: The Daily SUN.