Haribhanga farmers expect better prices as Covid curbs go

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The popular mango variety will be launched on June 20th

Haribhanga mangoes hang from a tree in an orchard in Chandipur village under Phulbari upazila of Dinajpur. The popular variety of the fruit is slated to hit the market after the harvest begins on June 20. Photo: Kongkon Karmaker

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Haribhanga mangoes hang from a tree in an orchard in Chandipur village under Phulbari upazila of Dinajpur. The popular variety of the fruit is slated to hit the market after the harvest begins on June 20. Photo: Kongkon Karmaker

Harvesting of haribhanga, a mango variety native to northwestern districts such as Rangpur, will begin on June 20 in the once-Monga-hit region, according to local government officials.

Monga is a Bengali term that refers to an annual cyclical phenomenon of poverty and hunger that occurred twice a year, from March to April and from September to November.

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Popular for their fiberless flesh, small seeds and unique sweetness, haribhanga mangoes are typically harvested late in the season for about two months.

But with the harvest date set a few weeks in advance this time, farmers and traders have spent busy days ensuring maximum harvest.

Apart from Rangpur, haribhanga mangoes are grown on small plots of land in adjacent districts such as Dinajpur, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Kurigram and Gaibandha due to their high demand.

According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Rangpur, haribhanga mangoes have been grown on 1,887 hectares of land in the district with an expected production of around 43,000 tons.

A number of DAE officials and farmers said that the suitable climate and soil conditions in Rangpur favor the cultivation of this fruit variety.

As such, haribhanga are grown throughout Rangpur, but about half of the total production comes from the Mithapukur and Badarganj upazilas, they added.

Farmers said that despite optimal yields over the past two seasons, growers and traders have not been able to make good profits as they have been unable to transport the fruit amid lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Therefore traders were forced to sell Haribhanga mangoes at dirt cheap prices in 2020 and 2021 when a kilogram of the fruit was available for 40-60 Tk depending on the quality, taste and size.

However, farmers expect better prices this season as the coronavirus situation is now practically over.

However, overall production this year may drop by around 20-30 percent compared to the previous two seasons due to poor climatic conditions, namely fluctuating temperatures during the budding period and premature rains between March and April.

The economy of Rangpur was previously in poor shape as ongoing famines were a never-ending problem for the region’s poverty-stricken families, particularly in the Upazilas of Gangachara and Kaunia.

Various initiatives in the private sector and implementation of government projects helped alleviate the situation, with Benarasi and Shataranji garment manufacturing being the most effective initiatives as these two industries created ample job opportunities.

However, Haribhanga has now become the most effective cash crop in the district as those who previously could not earn a decent living from other crops have become wealthy from growing the fruit.

Spurred on by the success of others, around 5,000 haribhanga orchards have grown across Rangpur over the years.

Rawshan Ali, who owns an orchard in Khoragachh village under Mithapukur Upazila, said farmers were delighted to see their trees bloom early this year, but their joy soon turned to frustration as the poor climate hampered production.

“However, the situation is now stable and growers expect good yields and better prices after two years of losses due to Covid-19,” he added.

Ranga Mia, another farmer from the same village, said her profits depend on current market conditions.

“So we’re hoping to get better profits despite the loss of production,” added Ranga, who leases a mango orchard with 54 trees for 4.2 lakh Tk a year.

The start of the harvest season also brings with it a number of other employment opportunities for the locals.

For example, the demand for bamboo baskets at this time of the year usually increases many times over, as they are used to pack and transport the mangoes.

Many locals spend busy days making these baskets for sale at a wholesale market in Padaganj Bazar under Badarganj upazila.

After facing transportation problems over the past two years, farmers have requested special arrangements from the local administration to facilitate the shipment of haribhanga mangoes to other parts of the country. This includes repairing roads and setting up rest areas, as well as ensuring access to banking facilities.

Md Asib Ahsan, Deputy Commissioner of Rangpur, was present at a recent meeting at Padaganj Bazar where he said an app would be launched on June 20 to facilitate the marketing process for farmers and traders.

Obaidur Rahman, deputy director of DAE’s Rangpur office, said that each hectare of the total cultivated land will produce about 18 tons of the fruit this year, giving farmers and traders an opportunity to do Tk 200 crore in business.

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