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Bagerhat farmers expect days of middlemen to be over after Padma Bridge opens

  • Alip Ghatak, Bagerhat Correspondent,
    Published: 2022-06-23 02:50:34 BdST

Farmers in the southwestern Bangladesh district of Bagerhat are looking forward to maximising their profits by selling directly to the consumers in Dhaka and other parts of the country, cutting the shares of middlemen in the business, once the Padma Bridge opens.

Bagerhat, famous for fish farming, produces Golda, the giant freshwater prawn, and saltwater Bagda or Tiger prawn. The fish from Bagerhat are also exported.

Fish farmers and suppliers allege Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association always cuts the prices of shrimps citing low demand in the international market.

Md Azizur Rahman, deputy director at the Department of Agricultural Extension in the district, said they will take an initiative so that the farmers can sell their produces once the bridge opens to all.

Farmers in the district produce cucumber, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, papaya and pumpkin that are sold in the kitchen markets of the cities, including capital Dhaka.

The structure of the Padma Bridge is fully visible now. It never goes beyond eyesight while crossing the Padma River on the Shimulia-Banglabazar route. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

The structure of the Padma Bridge is fully visible now. It never goes beyond eyesight while crossing the Padma River on the Shimulia-Banglabazar route. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Of the nine Upazilas of the district, most vegetables are cultivated in Chitalmari, Mollahat, Fakirhat and Bagerhat Sadar.

In the current Kharif season, the farmers have cultivated cucumber, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, papaya and pumpkin, said Azizur.

Farmers cultivate vegetables in Kharif and Robi seasons on about 14,500 hectares of land in the district -- 20 tonnes per hectare. Annual production is expected to stand at 280,000 tonnes, said Azizur.

Kharif crops are grown with the onset of monsoon in different parts of the country and these are harvested in September-October, while Robi crops are sown in winter from October to December and harvested in summer from April to June.

Azizur said 70,000 tonnes of these vegetables go to the capital. "If the wholesalers buy bitter gourd or any other vegetable at Tk 20 per kg, they sell it in the retail market of Dhaka at Tk 80.”

"But the farmers here do not get the price at that rate. Once the bridge is open, the influence of the middlemen in the business will wane,” he said. Azizur predicted that agro-based industries will develop more in this district in the future.

Padma Bridge workers are busy in last-minute preparations before its inauguration.

He also hopes the farmers will be encouraged to grow new varieties of crops with the change in connectivity.

Kabir Hossain, who has been cultivating Bagda, Golda and carp fish for a decade and a half in Bagerhat Sadar Upazila, said they currently sell 44-grade Bagda to the depots at Tk 600 per kg. The bigger ones are sold at Tk 800 to Tk 900.

“Farmers do not know the reason for the fall in shrimp prices on the international market. We accept what the depot owners tell us,” he said.

“Our fish also has a big domestic market. It will be proved this time. I’ve plans to sell these shrimps and white [carp] fish directly in the Dhaka markets after the opening of the bridge,” said the fish farmer.

Ashim Baroi, a law student of Charbaniari village in Chitalmari Upazila, cultivates vegetables on his 0.61 hectares of land all year round. He also has a plan to sell vegetables on his own in Dhaka instead of approaching the middlemen once the bridge is open.

“It will take three to three and a half hours to reach Dhaka from Chitalmari. If I leave for Dhaka in the morning after harvesting the vegetables the previous day, I will be able to sell the vegetables and return home by afternoon. People want to get vegetables fresh all the time,” Ashim said.

Md Shahid Mehfuz Racha, president Bangladesh Fertiliser Association’s Bagerhat unit, hopes the bridge will create new entrepreneurs, and reduce unemployment by enriching the agriculture-friendly economy.