Fungal diseases affect both betel leaf and stem of the plant in Bagerhat Dhaka Tribune
Sources from the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in the district said a total of 1,105 hectares of land have been used for crop farming this season
Many cultivators of betel leaves (paan) in Bagerhat are going through difficult times due to root rot and fungal diseases afflicting the plants.
The farmers had already been reeling from financial distress due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Cyclone Amphan and flooding last year. Now, the fungal diseases are making matters worse.
Sources from the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in the district said a total of 1,105 hectares of land have been used for crop farming this season.
In a recent visit, some betel leaf growers in Bagerhat Sadar, Sarankhola, Chitalmar, Morrelganj upazilas told this correspondent that they are frustrated as root rot and fungal diseases are damaging their gardens, and they do not know how to recover the losses.
Farmer Amirul Islam Mintu of Bagerhat Sadar said he expected to make a profit of Tk1 lakh from his two betel leaf gardens, but 80% of the leaves have already been damaged.
Billal Sheikh, a wholesaler of the district town, said Betel leaf farmers in the district were hit hard by the lockdown restrictions last year, and faced more problems when Cyclone Amphan razed hundreds of gardens in coastal districts.
“Now, we are at a loss as we have to face dangerous fungal diseases,” he added.
Bagerhat DAE Deputy Director Sanjoy Kumar Das said: “We are suggesting that the affected farmers apply anti-fungal medicine to their plants.”
Betel-leaf farming plays a vital role in improving the socio-economic condition of people in many areas of the region, as it has gained fame for the crop. As it is more profitable than many other crops for the farmers, the amount of land for farming the betel leaves has been on a constant increase.
But this year, betel vines of the district have been hit hard by floods, storms and rain. The strong winds have battered thousands of betel vines. Thousands of people in many upazilas of the district are heavily dependent on betel plantations.
Cyclone Amphan destroyed a thousand hectares of cropland in the district.
Aminur Rahman, a farmer of Sharonkhola upazila, said betel leaves could not be exported and significant business was lost last year due to fallout from the pandemic.