"Modhumash is nothing if you do not taste the litchi (lychee) of Dinajpur."
This is how the Bangla month of Jaistha was described by a teenager, Tauhid Aziz, who travelled all the way to his grandparents' home in Dinajpur, 337 kilometres from Dhaka, just to enjoy the mouth-watering seasonal fruit.
It has been nearly a week that litchis hit Dinajpur town's wholesale market in Kalitola area. However, apprehensions are rife that the juicy fruit would not be available for long as production was less than half of that in the last couple of seasons for adverse weather.
"Weather was not favourable during the flowering season. Besides, there was a lot of rains and storms. All these things together affected production," Rafiqul Islam, a litchi trader in the market, told The Daily Star.
A senior horticulturist at the Department of Horticulture in Dinajpur, Md Imrul Ahsan, apprehended that production may be only half of that of last year.
At least 23,227 metric tonnes of litchi was produced on 4,100 hectares of land last year, according to the department.
"There was fog, massive fluctuations in day and night temperature and rains...these are the key things which affected litchi production," said Imrul.
Madrazi, Bombai, Bedana and China-3 are the varieties widely produced in Dinajpur, he said.
The Daily Star correspondent found Madrazi litchis, though not completely ripe, arriving on Sunday, selling at Tk 250 (S$ 4) to Tk 350 per hundred in retail shops depending on the size and taste.
Traders said other varieties may take another 15 days to arrive.
"The price remains high initially...it will start dropping later," said a local, Zahidul Islam.
The price is a little bit high this year and many will not be able to afford it, said one Kurban Ali, a trader who came from Barisal for the fruit, adding that it was Tk 30 to 50 lesser in wholesale markets.
Traders said low supply against a high demand was pushing prices up.
Buyers from districts including Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Barisal have already gathered in Dinajpur to ensure supply of the best litchis to their respective districts.
Besides, rural women are passing busy days sorting harvests. "We can earn some extra money with the start of the litchi season," said Jarina Begum of Mashimpur village in sadar upazila.
There are some 3,000 litchi orchards all over Dinajpur. One trader, Aftab Uddin, however, opined that the tastiest ones can be found in Biral upazila and Mashimpur of sadar upazila.
The business centring litchi in Dinajpur lasts for around two months, involving around Tk 1,000 crore. Of the profits, 30 per cent goes to growers, 10 to 15 per cent to traders and the rest to labourers, truckers and middlemen, said farmers.
Growers and traders say they suffer losses every year for a shortage of preservation centres of this fruit, which perishes fast. They say a post-harvest management centre needs to be set up in Dinajpur as early as possible.