The Bangalees lovingly call Jaisthya Madhumas (the month of honey). Do any people anywhere in the world pay such a glowing tribute to a particular month? TS Eliot, in contrast, pained a most hostile picture of a month by his famous verdict, "April is the cruellest month". So far as the unbearably soaring temperature and the unrelenting stifling air or the lack of it of Jaisthya are concerned, the month could as well be passed as one Eliot refers to in the opening line of his most celebrated poem, The Waste Land.
Then what really gives the month the distinctive character that the Bangalees have fallen in love with? No, honey does not flow on its own. But the array of Nature's gifts beats the sweet tenderness of honey. City people may not be aware of the gifts the month brings for the animal world including human beings, but those living in villages appreciate the succulence of those natural endowments. Here is a month when the finest of fruits ripen. Mango leads the pack but black berry, water melon, pine apple and lichi do not fall back far behind. Jamrul or water apple, wood apple, gab or parsimon and dates follow. Of course, the national fruit, jack fruit is most conspicuous because of its size and abundance. Papaya can as well be counted here as a summer treat. Lotkon or Burmese grape has its spell too. Then there are little known fruits like kau, dewa or monkey jack -all with their mouth-watering distinctive tastes. Still less familiar is the cane fruit known as betfal. The taste of which is heavenly when those are shaken inside a pot with a little turmeric dust, a pinch of salt and a few drops of mustard oil.
Years ago, such traditional but little known treats were available at the gate of New Market. Cane bushes from villages have nearly disappeared. Do the vendors at the New Market's south gate still collect those for sale? Even in most villages such fruits are a rarity now. Another childhood treat was a small version of wild black berry (used to be called am jam karkuna in northern Barisal and Faridpur). Perhaps this wild plant that grew five to six feet has disappeared forever. City people are however familiar with luscious tal shas (young seeds of palm).
Surely the land with such wide varieties of fruits -each one of those boasting special qualities and nutritional values --could challenge any prolific fruit-growing place on the planet. But sadly many of these fruits are no longer available in any significant quantity. Farmers are even encouraged to cultivate exotic fruits like straw berry, dragon fruits and the likes but no one is interested in farming local fruits now disappearing fast. Madhu Mas has to be marked by mango, jack fruit, black berry, pine apple and lichi.
However, there has been a marked shift in this year's fruit harvesting. The news is that farmers are not enthusiastic about plucking mangoes that are about to fall down on their own because those are ripe enough for the trees to hold on to those. The reason is the low price in the local market. Mangoes are reportedly sold at the growers' level at Tk 10-15 a kilogram. One reason is the late ripening of fruits because of continuous rains in the summer. This is middle of the month of Ashad and mangoes are in abundant supply. Another reason for this is the strong monitoring by the district administration of the mango orchards in the country's north. Immature mangoes were not allowed to be plucked and artificially ripened. With the temperature rising now, mangoes of all the orchards have started ripening at a time.
Farmers tending mango orchards have to spend quite an amount and if they are compelled to sell at Tk 10-15 a kg of their fruits, they surely have to incur losses. But unsurprisingly, mango traders and middlemen do not have to face any problem. In cities and towns mangoes sell at Tk 60-80 a kg, if not more. Such is the price difference. Farmers will feel disappointed. It is not with mango alone, other perishable items also face similar adversarial price gaps. One solution to this problem is to eliminate the middlemen and help farmers with transport for sending their consignments directly to consumers in towns, cities and other places where the fruit does not grow well. Such transports can be managed by extending credits to farmers who may pay the loans in instalments and run transports under cooperative ownership.
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