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Unripe watermelons cause discontent by the kg in Barisal

Staff Reporter:

In Barisal, watermelon buyers have been left disgruntled as retailers opt to sell by weight to ramp up profits while wholesalers count them as individual pieces.
Complaints have also flooded in regarding the unripeness of the watermelons available in the market. Many buyers have discovered that although the outer appearance suggests ripeness, the interior remains underdeveloped, depriving consumers of the desired taste despite paying the price.
Marginal farmers, wholesalers, and traders said watermelons have traditionally been traded by piece rather than by weight in the wholesale market. However, with the onset of the watermelon season coinciding with high demand during Ramadan, prices have surged.
Presently, a hundred small watermelons fetch between Tk3,000 and Tk4,000, while larger ones, weighing 7-12kg, are sold for Tk25,000 to Tk30,000 per hundred pieces.
At wholesale markets, large watermelons are priced between Tk250 and Tk300 each. However, retailers are reportedly earning Tk600 to Tk900 per watermelon by selling by weight.
The cultivation of watermelons spans approximately 61,258 hectares across the Barisal division this season, slightly lower than the previous year’s cultivation area of 64,183 hectares. The districts of Bhola, Patuakhali, and Barguna emerge as prominent cultivation areas due to their sandy shoal terrain, according to the Barisal regional office of the Department of Agriculture.
In addition to these districts, Barisal, Jhalokathi, and Pirojpur also contribute to watermelon cultivation. Seeds are readily available in farmers’ fields and local markets across the division.
The president of the Barisal Fruit Harvesters Association, Karthik Dutta, highlighted that watermelons are harvested and purchased as whole pieces by both farmers and retailers. He emphasized the dominance of watermelons in the city’s fruit markets, with supplies extending beyond Barisal to cater to national demand.
Residents, such as Runa Begum from Kawnia, expressed dismay over the escalating prices and the shift towards selling watermelons by weight. She noted a significant hike from last year’s prices, with watermelons now commanding Tk60 to Tk70 per kilogram.
Mithun Sarkar echoed similar sentiments, observing that while small watermelons are sold as whole pieces, larger ones are priced by weight, ranging from Tk60 to Tk70 per kilogram.
Sujoy Mondol, a retailer, said the rapid deterioration of watermelons left him with no choice but to sell them by weight to salvage returns.
Farmers like Faridul Islam from Chhota Baishdia village in Rangabali, Patuakhali, have invested substantially in watermelon cultivation, selling them in lots of 100 pieces for Tk30,000, only to find retailers doubling the price in the retail market.
Kamrul Islam from Bhola district wholesale lamented that prices were capped at Tk300 per watermelon, while retailers command between Tk500 and Tk700 per piece.
Russel Khan, Barisal district officer of the Directorate of Agricultural Marketing, said that the price of watermelon is constantly changing due to the demand in the wholesale market. Retailers in Barisal city are selling watermelons by the kilogram using various techniques. They fix the price by weight in advance at the rate of Tk70 to Tk80 per kg.

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