Shortage of labourers amid the prevailing lockdown has currently emerged as a major impediment for farmers across the country, especially in harvesting Boro crop in the haor region.
Harvest of matured Boro crop has already been affected in the haor, beel and other low-lying areas. Farmers in other plain lands are going to face the same situation, as their harvest will begin from the middle of this month, according to farmers.
If the present situation persists, it will cause a significant loss to their desired crop output, they feared.
The haor region is a geographically low land, comprising parts of seven districts, including Sunamganj, Kishoreganj, Netrakona, Habiganj, Sylhet, Moulovibazar and Brahmanbaria districts. It provides 15-20 per cent of the total Boro rice output of the country.
Paddy growers in haor areas cultivate Boro crop much earlier here - six to eight weeks before that of other regions - to avoid flash flood. Boro harvest will start in other places across the country from mid-May, and will continue until mid-July.
The haor farmers largely depend on migratory labourers from Rangpur, Mymensingh and Faridpur divisions to complete harvesting crops quickly to avoid any natural disaster.
Farid Dastagir, a farmer at Gazaria Beel area of Mithamoin upazila in Kishoreganj district, told the FE over cell-phone that paddy in his nine bighas of land is ready to harvest.
"I could manage harvesting only one bigha in last two days amid labourer shortage."
He also said seasonal agri workers from Rangpur and Faridpur regions, who get paddy as their wage instead of money, could not come to this region during this peak harvesting season amid the lockdown.
Farmers here might witness 20-30 per cent crop loss this year due to labourer shortage, as the area hardly has any mechanised (combined) harvesters, he added.
According to the monitoring unit of Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), the government has set the target of producing 20.04 million tonnes of rice on 4.82 million hectares of land during this Boro season.
But cultivation in 4.7 million hectares has been completed, of which the districts of haor region comprise 0.93 million hectares, according to primary projection of DAE.
The country produced a record of 20.03 million tonnes of rice last year in Boro season, where the haor region contributed 3.45 million tonnes.
Our Sunamganj Correspondent Ali Akbar Chowdhury adds: The district comprises the highest 0.22 million hectares of land in the haor region this year. The target is to grow 0.88 million tonnes of Boro rice.
The district is experiencing a severe labourer shortage now, as the harvesting season has begun.
Our Bogura Correspondent Emdadul Haque adds: Bogura farmers largely hire labourers from northern Gaibandha, Rangpur and Kurigram districts every season for cultivation of crops.
Boro harvest will begin in the district from Mid-May. If the lockdown continues until the last of April, it will hit crop output hard, opined farmers in the district.
According to DAE Bogura office, farmers cultivated Boro in 188,615 hectares of land to grow 0.8 million tonnes of rice.
Our Rangpur Correspondent Mafidul Haque Babu adds: A total of 0.49 million hectares of land have been brought under Boro farming in five districts of Rangpur region to grow 2.0 million tonnes of rice.
Additional director of DAE Rangpur Region Mohammad Ali told the FE that the labourer shortage will hit Rangpur farmers, if the lockdown continues until May.
He said DAE, with the help of local administration, is preparing a list of migratory labourers to send them to haor and other low-lying areas to maintain sound crop production across the country.
DAE is also working to include vegetables in the government's safety-net programmes following the lockdown.
Agri-economist Prof Golam Hafiz Kennedy said more than 1.8 million farm labourers migrate to different regions during this harvesting period for work.
He noted that Boro cultivation has dropped this year to some extent. Now this labourer shortage might affect production further.
The government should handle this labourer shortage immediately to prevent any production fall, as farmers of haor, beel and other low lands largely depend on migratory labourers.
Mechanised harvesting should be boosted in all regions to maintain smooth production, which is inevitable for ensuring the country's food security, he added.