Farmers switching to other crops
Mahfuz Emran: At one time sugarcane was cultivated on both banks of the small Jamuna in Joypurhat Sadar area. The distance from there to Joypurhat Sugar Mill is a few kilometers. Sugar mills also have their own land (mill area) in these areas. The demand of this sugar mill was practically met by this sugarcane produced in the mill’s own and non-mill lands. The demand for sugarcane in sugar mills is declining. As a result, sugarcane cultivation has decreased in the lands. Apart from the land of the sugar mill, various crops have been taken over the cultivable land.
Farid Mia, a 60-year-old sugarcane farmer on the banks of the small Jamuna, told, “I did not see anything except sugarcane being cultivated in these lands as a child. But now no one wants to cultivate sugarcane. Everyone is inclined to cultivate other crops. Only sugarcane is being cultivated in some lands of the mill.
Explaining the reason, the farmer said that the mill does not buy sugarcane like before. The season does not last for two or three weeks. Again, if one of them gives sugarcane, he does not pay for it.
When money is given, it is less, there is no profit. For a long time, everyone has lost interest in sugarcane cultivation due to these problems. Statistics also show evidence of disinterest of farmers in the area. In the 2013-14 season, sugarcane was cultivated in 11,606 acres of land in this district. In the last fiscal year 2020-21, sugarcane cultivation has come down to 3 thousand 20 acres in the district.
This is the situation of sugarcane cultivation not only in Joypurhat but in the whole country and in the mill area. According to BSFIC data, sugarcane land and production in the mill area has declined by about one-third in the last one decade. According to the data, where sugarcane was cultivated in 1 lakh 61 thousand 429 acres of land in these areas in 2010-11, it has come down to 1 lakh 26 thousand 263 acres in 2019-20. At the same time sugarcane production has decreased from 30 lakh 40 thousand 224 tons to 21 lakh 512 tons.
However, the amount of sugarcane cultivation in the mill area has decreased, but not in the non-mill area. According to the Bangladesh Sugarcrop Research Institute (BSRI), in the last financial year (2020-21), sugarcane has been cultivated in 1 lakh 95 thousand acres of land across the country (mill and non-mill area).
Of which 1 lakh 26 thousand acres of land. The remaining 69,000 acres are outside. Even in the last three years (2018-19), the amount of unincorporated land was 61 thousand acres. That means two thousand acres have been reduced in three years.
Meanwhile, in the last financial year (2020-21), the total production of sugarcane in the mill area has been 19 lakh 79 thousand tons, according to BSRI.
In this regard, the Director General of BSRI told that the situation is better in the outlying areas than the way sugarcane production is declining in the mill area. There is a good demand for molasses and chewed sugarcane.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC) has closed six government sugar mills to reduce the burden of losses of state-owned sugar mills from the fiscal year 2020-21. The sugar mills that have decided to stop production are Kushtia, Pabna, Panchagarh, Shampur (Rangpur), Rangpur and Setabganj (Dinajpur) sugar mills. In all, there are 15 sugar mills under the corporation. Although six sugar mills have been closed, sugarcane threshing continues in the remaining nine. The corporation is even buying sugarcane from farmers under six sugar mills.
The sugarcane is being threshed in the sugar mill. But in the areas where sugar mills are closed, sugarcane cultivation has been adversely affected.
It is learned that sugarcane is being supplied to Thakurgaon sugar mill in the area as Panchagarh sugar mill is closed. Even after the official threshing of Panchagarh Sugar Mills during the current threshing season, thousands of farmers have been suffering from sugarcane. The sugarcane has dried up in the field day by day as it could not be given to the sugar mill at the specified time. The farmers have counted the losses in weight loss.
Therefore, sugarcane cultivation in the area has decreased a lot this season.
Several farmers in the area said they have not been cultivating sugarcane since they heard the closure of the sugar mill. The sugar mill authorities are no longer motivating the farmers to cultivate sugarcane. As a result, farmers are planting other crops in the old sugarcane fields.
Similarly, it is learned that farmers in other closed sugar mills have stopped providing fertilizers, pesticides, seeds and loans.
Shahjahan Ali, general secretary of the central committee of the Bangladesh Sugar Mills Sugarcane Federation, told that the farmers have lost interest due to various reasons including closure of sugar mills. The cultivation that has been maintained is the cultivation of molasses and chewed sugarcane. Both these aspects are favorable for the farmer. It is necessary to take immediate action before the farmers lose interest.
If the sugar mill is started, the farmers may get interest again. Regarding the reduction in sugarcane cultivation, BSRI Director General Amjad Hossain further said that besides the closure of sugar mills, there are other reasons for the reduction in this crop. It is a long-term crop and expensive. As a result, it is not possible for many to meet the expenses by keeping the crop in the field for a long time.
“It’s profitable,” he said. But it is not possible without selling. Sugar mills used to be 80 to 90 percent cultivated. Now six mills are closed. Many did not get it. Due to this, the cultivation of sugarcane in non-mixed areas has decreased considerably. At this time farmers are benefiting from other crops. Besides, they are not getting financial support from sugar mills. That is another big reason.
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