Hill Voice, 10 April 2020, Rangamati: The present time of the season is very important for the seasonal fruit cultivators of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). During this time every year food shortages, scarcity of money, and prevalence of various diseases are being appeared among the indigenous Jumma families. During this time the biggest traditional social festival of indigenous Jumma people of CHT named Bizu, Sangrai, Boisu, Bishu and Bihu is also being celebrated. As a result, if the natural vegetables or products can be brought in the city or market before the social festival, then there is an opportunity to earn some money for the fruit cultivators. Seasonal growers who spend money and work hard to produce fruit also see considerable profit.
Pineapple and watermelon season get rich in this time in CHT. As it is start to warm, the demand for these seasonal fruits starts increases. The pineapple and watermelon are especially grown huge in Rangamati hill district. Several market of the upazilas and Rangamati town are being filled with pineapple and watermelon. Fruit cultivators from different parts of the country come to these markets and buy fruits.
It is learnt that the yield of pineapple and watermelon has been high this year. The fruit cultivators are also satisfied with their production. However, due to the worldwide corona disease and lockdown, anxiety, panic and steps of government and private institutions, the fruit cultivators are facing losses. The hard work and expectation of the fruit cultivators are coming to an end.
In the meantime, all kinds of transportation have been closed. As a result, the fruit buyers across the country are not able to come to buy the fruits. Locally, restriction on movement has also been imposed. All kinds of shop are being closed except the necessary shops. For this, the local people and small businessmen also are not able to go to buy these products. Which is why, the fruit cultivators are facing difficult time to sell their products.
The weekly market of Rangamati are being held on Saturday and Wednesday. The biggest market of these seasonal fruits is being held in the Samataghat of Banarupa. The fruit cultivators from Naniarchar upazila, Longadu upazila, Barkal upazila, Jurachhari upazila and several other upazilas also bring their grown fruits in there. Recently, many fruit cultivators in Samataghat area have been seen without any buyers. As a result, they have been compelled to sell their products in cheap price. Before two weeks, they have sold a pair of pineapple at 30-40 taka. But now they are selling at only 10-15 Taka.
It is reported that, most of the fruit cultivators invested all of their saving money or borrowed money from someone at high interest in the hope for profit. Many fruit cultivators celebrate their traditional festival, pay their debt, take care of their families from the profit of their selling. But, this year they are being helpless.
It is to be mentioned that, despite the long-standing demand of the conscious and the fruit cultivators of CHT, no cold storage has yet been set up by the government or local authorities. Therefore, there is no arrangement to preserve these fresh fruits and vegetables which are digestible, highly demanding and beneficial. As a result, the fruit cultivators automatically will fall in danger while the fruits already started rotting down.
Some of the fruit cultivators expressed their disappointment while talking with some of them. They said, “we do not know what we should do right now, how we will pay our debts and take care of our families”.
Many people have addressed this issue in different national and local media and social platform. They have expressed their anxiety and solidarity with the fruit cultivators. Some have raised demand from government to take especial initiative for the fruit cultivators. On the other hand, some also have demanded to undertake any mechanism or process in line with the coronavirus prevention program to ensure that these fruits are sold at a consistent price in Rangamati city. At this, some sellers might be able to minimize the loss consumers will have the opportunity to buy these fruits at affordable prices.