Wednesday, August 5, 2020 | ePaper

Gloomy days for nature-lovers

Tree fair uncertain as nurseries in bad shape

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News Desk :
Since its inception in 2005, the month-long national tree fair in Dhaka has piqued the enthusiasm of nature lovers during monsoon to buy seeds and plants in millions. But the rampant coronavirus epidemic is threatening to put this year's event on the backburner, reoirts
According to nursery owners and others involved with the trade, around 10 million seeds and plants worth Tk 300-350 million are sold at the fair each year.
While nature has been revitalised by the arrival of the rainy season, nurseries are yet to reap its rewards as customers are scarce despite the relaxation of the lockdown measures to limit the outbreak.
The constriction placed on people's movement and their work over the last three months significantly reduced the activities of nurseries and dented sales too. With the odds of getting too many customers looking bleak, nurseries have refrained from producing new seeds and plants.
Nursery owners also lamented the diminishing hopes of the countrywide tree plantation campaign being held this year. This could exacerbate the losses that the sector suffered in the pandemic.
"Our sales are very low. We are selling seeds and plants worth no more than Tk 10,000 daily whereas last year on this day, I made sales worth around Tk 40-50,000," said Shariful Alam, the owner of Jannat Nursery at Dhaka's Agargaon.
"People grow plants on rooftops in Dhaka but they are not coming around to buy plants anymore due to the coronavirus," he added.
Abu Bakr Siddique, who tends to a small garden on his rooftop in Segunbagicha, said he was looking forward to adding new plant varieties to his terrace this year. But the coronavirus outbreak has put paid to his plans.   
"I don't get out of my home for fear of contracting the coronavirus infection, except to buy the daily necessities. I need some plants for my rooftop, but there is no decent nursery around and I'm not bold enough to go to Agargaon," he said.
The drop in sales, which is around 60 to 70 percent according to some owners, has triggered unemployment in the nursery sector during the pandemic. Nursery owners now await government intervention to recover the losses.
There are almost 20,000 nurseries across the country where workers produce seeds and grow plants. Seeds produced by local farmers and imported from abroad are also featured for sale.
But many stakeholders have bemoaned the government's lack of initiative to help the investors in this sector to recuperate their losses. Nursery owners demanded free distribution of fertilisers and insecticides to rescue the sector.

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