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Winter vegetable saplings get 4-5 times costlier

Due to an increase in import costs and supply failing to keep up with demand, winter vegetable saplings have become four to five times costlier this year in Bogura's sapling villages in the Shajahanpur upazila.

Importers and traders said it was because the price of seeds was higher than last year due to costlier US dollars and a failure to open letters of credit as per demand.

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Another reason behind the price hike is the lack of supply, with a lot of saplings damaged this season by inclement weather.

Owners of sapling gardens in the area informed that around half of their saplings had been damaged due to excessive heat.

Farmers from around 35-40 districts visited the Shahnagar area to buy winter vegetable saplings, according to traders.

However, farmers said they would have to begin counting their losses if the yield was not good because costs of production were higher than ever.

Rashedul Islam, a farmer from Jamalpur's Madarganj upazila, came to Shahnagar village to buy chilli saplings. He said: "10 farmers came here to buy chilli saplings but the prices are very high this year. It was Tk 200-300 per thousand chilli saplings last year but now it is Tk 1,400 per thousand."

Similarly, eggplant saplings were Tk 400-500 per thousand and cauliflower saplings were Tk 500-700 per thousand, but this year they are selling for Tk 800 and Tk 1,600 per thousand respectively.

Tomato saplings cost Tk 400 per thousand but are now selling for Tk 1,800-2,000 per thousand, said Foizul Islam, a farmer who came to buy winter saplings from Gaibandha.

According to the Department of Agricultural Extension of Bogura, there are 250 to 300 farmers in the Shajahanpur upazila cultivating around 30-40 hectares of land per year.

Nadim Islam, a farmer from Bogura's Shajahanpur upazila, said that his costs of production had also increased. As farmers got good prices for vegetables this summer, many increased cultivation, he added.

He was worried that low yields or a fall in prices would lead to losses.

Rekha Dutta, a resident of Singair upazila of Manikganj district, said that every year in winter, she plants different types of vegetable seedlings to meet her family's needs.

Last week, she went to the market to buy seedlings of several vegetables, including eggplants, and saw that the price of each piece was double compared to last year.

The fact that the price has doubled within a year is quite disappointing, she added.

Amzad Hossain, president of the Shahnagar Sobji Malik Somity, said they had a target to produce five crore saplings this year.

But around 15-20 days ago, 50 percent of the saplings were damaged due to heat.

Besides, prices of seed and polythene as well as labour costs increased. As the demand is high and supply is low, prices increased rapidly, he said.

Zillur Rahman, owner of the Zillur Beez Bhandar, said the first round of saplings were damaged due to excessive heat and rain. In addition, they had to buy seeds at a higher price this year.

When asked if the high prices would have an impact on the vegetable market, Amena Khatun, Shajahanpur upazila agriculture officer, said: "If the yield is good, there will not be any impact on the kitchen markets. If the yield is not good, prices will increase a bit."

Abdul Latif, owner of Borhan Nursery of the Shahnagar village, said vegetable seeds had become costlier this year, increasing from Tk 4,000 to Tk 8,000 per kg.

Omar Al Faruque, a seed importer and seller in Dhaka, added that a large quantity of seeds have to be imported.

Now, due to the dollar shortage, LCs cannot be opened as per demand. At the same time, the increase in the price of the US dollar is also one of the reasons behind the increase in the price of seeds, he said.

Faruque claimed that he was able to import only half of the seeds he needed.

In the fiscal year 2021-22, the demand for vegetable seeds in the country was 2,750 metric tonnes and 3,407 metric tonnes were produced, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.