Farmer and orchard owners of Moulvibazar are counting losses despite a bumper harvest due to various reasons including low prices and a lack of cold storage.
The price of lemon takes a plunge in the region during peak season due to surplus supply. As production costs exceed the sale amount, many farmers opt not to harvest the fruit.
According to local orchard owners, the low prices of lemon in the market hardly covers the labour cost, let alone other production costs. Hence they are forced to leave the fruits in the trees.
Local wholesalers said the production of lemon is more than the demand, so the price has come down a lot.
Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) sources said lemon is cultivated on about 1,719 hectares of land in the district. The seedless variety of lemon is cultivated more in Sreemangal and Kamolganj upazilas of the district.
The yield of seedless variety is more compared to any other type of lemon.
Besides, other varieties of lemon are being cultivated in Jaintiapur, Gowainghat, and Kanaighat upazilas of Sylhet. In FY 2022-23, about 27,504 tonnes of lemon was produced in the district.
Once the lemon cultivated in the district was even exported to various European countries after meeting the local demand.
However, exports ceased due to some viruses being found in some lemons.
Upon talking to orchard owners and traders, this correspondent found that lemon is currently being sold for Tk one per piece in the wholesale market of Sreemangal. The prices were Tk 0.4-0.5 earlier this month.
In retail markets of the upazila, they are being sold for Tk 3-4 per piece.
Orchard owner Samsul Haque of Radhanagar area of the upazila said that it costs them about Tk 600 taka to harvest and transport a cart full (about 800) lemons to the market.
“We are barely left with anything after subtracting the additional costs. Earlier this month, lemons went for less than half the price now. Many of us had a negative profit margin for a while,” he added.
Samsul further said that even not harvesting the lemon poses certain problems. The yield of the plants decreases if not harvested on time.
“Sometimes we pick the lemons ourselves from trees and throw them away. If the government does something for the lemon farmers, we would not have to suffer losses and it will also help the agri-economy,” Samsul said.
Janak Debvarma, a lemon orchard owner of Doluchora area, said, “We do not get the price of lemons as per the quantity of lemons we produce here. Lemon prices are good for two months per year but we have to count losses throughout the year.”
He added that in the past few months, a few of his lemon plants died. He had to harvest the ripe lemons and throw them away to ensure the plants’ health.
In regards to lemon cultivation in the district, DAE Divisional Deputy Director Kazi Mojibur Rahman said, “Lemon yield is currently high as it is peak season. Due to surplus supply, the prices are a bit low. However, the prices remain good the rest of the year.”
Moulvibazar DAE Deputy Director (In-charge) Samsuddin Ahmed told The Business Post that various varieties of crops are produced in the division.
“The price of most crops is relatively low in the season. I think cold storage is needed to store them. Farmers and orchard owners will benefit from this,” he said.