In the aftermath of this year’s prolonged flood, thousands of farmers failed to sow mustard plants in low-lying areas still submerged in waist-deep water.
The submerged lowlands are mostly in river basins and beels where water usually dries up at this time of the year allowing for mustard cultivation, a way for many farmers to make some extra money between major crops such as boro and aman.
Earlier, the prolonged flood that came in phases from late June through mid-October, caused thousands of farmers to miss the opportunity of cultivating early winter vegetables, besides destroying aman crop.
‘My field is still under waist-deep water,’ said Afzal Hossain, a farmer of Mirzapur, Tangail.
Tangail is considered one of the leading mustard producing places in Bangladesh by the Department of Agricultural Extension. Fields filled with yellow mustard flowers are a common view during winter in the district.
Afzal represents the group of farmers who usually grow the oil seed in Kumuli beel in Kurni, which spread across approximately 26 hectares.
‘I produced 600 kilograms from my three bighas of land in the beel last year,’ said 50-year-old Afzal.
Usually the fertile land of Kumuli beel lay exposed by November, just before winter, the dry season. But this year the beel is entirely submerged in water.
In his life, this is the first time Afzal missed mustard season though the year before last year there was some water in it but he and other farmers managed to pump it out.
‘But this year there is so much water that you cannot even think of having it pumped out,’ said Afzal.
Mirzapur upazila agricultural officer Muhammad Moshiur Rahman said that they targeted 8,500 hectares for growing mustard but could cultivate the winter crop in 7,200 hectares.
Many of the farmers sowed mustard long after its planting season as late as the first week of December though there is a risk of losing yield for late planting after November 15, he said.
Some fields that have just surfaced from under water are left uncultivated by many farmers for they think there is not enough time to grow mustard before the season of boro, the main crop in the country.
Mustard is harvested in 80 days of cultivation and planting it after mid-December might delay boro cultivation, said Moshiur.
The field service wing of the DAE said that mustard was cultivated in 532,836 hectares against the target of 588,737 hectares.
Bangladesh spends a lot of foreign currencies importing oil every year with only 30 per cent of the demand met through domestic production. The domestic oil production is mainly dependent on mustard oil seeds.
The latest spell of flood hit Bangladesh in late September and continued through mid-October, the planting season of winter vegetables, eventually reducing its production by a fourth, especially in northern and central Bangladesh.