Many people consider winter as a season of delight. Despite some problems, people eagerly wait for this particular season owing to the fact that many seasonal fruits and vegetables grow during this time of the year.As a result, cross sections of people as well as the farmers become very happy with the advent of winter. They cultivate different types of vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, radish, hyacinth bean, bottle gourd etc. during winter months with a view to making some profit by selling those vegetables. But the scenario has changed to a great extent in the last few years as the farmers are no more getting due price. And in some cases they even have to incur losses as they fail to manage the amount required for cultivating those vegetables by selling their produce to the wholesalers.
“I came to this market early in the morning to sell ten maunds of cauliflower. Now it is about to noon. Only one wholesaler came to me and offered an unsalable price of Tk. 100 per maund, then went away. Just a couple of days ago, I sold per maund of vegetable at a rate of Tk. 350-400. Now, if I have to sell my crops in that price, I will have to count a great loss,” said Monirul Islam, a farmer hailing from Ujan Khalsi village of Natore, who went to Tebariya bazaar on last Tuesday to sell his produce. “I cultivated two bighas of land for cauliflower. Now, I am in serious trouble as I am not getting the due price. I had to spend Tk. 20,000-22,000 per bigha for cultivating the crops. As, in an average, 60-62 maunds of cauliflower are harvested per bigha, I will surely have to face a huge loss.”
According to the statistics given by Monirul Islam, the cost for cultivating a cauliflower is around Tk. 8.50-9, though we pay Tk. 25-30 for a cauliflower in the kitchen market. But the question is - how much are the farmers paid?
The situation is worse than imaginable for the cultivators of radish. Shafikul Haque is a farmer from Pukurgascha village in Dhupchanchia, Bogra. He came to Mahasthan bazaar to sell radish. He was sitting beside his bags full of radish without any hope. He shared the reason behind his pale face with us in this way, “I have brought 15 maunds of radish crossing miles with a hope of getting a good price here. But the wholesalers are not putting up good price at all. It is very much disappointing. If I sell radish at the rate of Tk. 50, I cannot even pay the fare of the vehicle. Now, I don’t know what should I do?”
Along with cauliflower and radish cultivators, other farmers are also suffering in the same way. Jalil Molla, a farmer from Deopura, Niamotpur village under Naogaon District, shared, “A few days ago I went to the local market to sell potatoes. But I was completely frustrated as the wholesalers were offering a very low price.” Under such circumstances the farmers are hardly trying to recover their loss by selling other vegetables like bean, tomato and eggplant. But the fact is that they are paid a very poor percent of the price paid by the consumers of kitchen markets.
Well, most of the farmers allege that the situation is being created by the wholesalers. They always try to exploit them. Muktadir Alam, a young farmer of Mahasthan area, said, “In the very beginning of the winter season every year, we watch in television that the residents of different cities buy different winter vegetables at a high price, but the farmers hardly get a good price. Even this year cauliflower was sold at Tk. 40-50 but we were not paid more than Tk. 12-15. When per kg potato was sold at Tk. 60-70, we sold per maund at Tk. 700-750. The consumers of kitchen markets are paying high but we, the people who cultivate these vegetables, are not benefitted despite high demand in the kitchen markets. Everybody knows the reason, but there is no one to remove our miseries.”
This correspondent after thorough investigation has found out that the middlemen purchase the produces directly from the farmers at a low price - sometimes at a throwaway price -- and supply those to the city markets where they are sold at much higher prices. So, the real beneficiaries are the middlemen whereas the growers are deprived of profit.
It’s actually a fact that, in the existing supply chain, a huge gap between vegetable growers and end consumers has been created by a number of middlemen. Again the vegetable marketing information system rarely exists in current context for which the vegetable growers do not have current vegetables’ price and demand information. So they cannot sell it at the right price to the middlemen. They often take loan from local money lenders who charge higher rate of interest for the loan. Another great problem is that we do not have sufficient cold stores to preserve the vegetables. As a result, the farmers are left with no choice other than selling their produces at a price fixed by the traders.
"We feel uncomfortable when farmers ask us why we request them to grow more crops but cannot ensure fair prices for their produces," an official from Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM) said. "In order to ensure fair prices of all agricultural products including vegetables, there should be a strong marketing policy so that middlemen or wholesalers cannot deprive farmers," suggested Golam Rahman, President of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB).
Moreover, it is mentionable that a supply chain system is needed to supply vegetables from the crop fields to the local markets. It is also effective at that time when it meets the demand of end consumers at the right place, at the right time and at the right price. In case of vegetable supply chain, it needs to meet the vegetable demand of consumers effectively so that consumers, vegetable growers and middlemen get equal benefit from it. If it is not effective, then the interest of any party may decrease. It is the right time for everyone involved in the vegetable supply chain to participate in a planned way to improve the overall performance of the system.
It is also true that nowadays vegetables grow aplenty in Bangladesh which is not only enough to meet domestic requirements but also are exported across the world to earn handsome amount of money for the country. Almost all types of vegetables are now available round the year beating the on-season off-season barriers. Yet, vegetable growers in Bangladesh are denied fair price and so they keep struggling to meet their ends. This reality comes starkly to the open when someone takes a stroll across the vegetable growing areas, near or far from the capital Dhaka.
Eyes get aptly appeased by seeing huge loads of vegetables heading into the capital from outside every morning. Prices go up and down, sometimes abnormally, in the retail markets but the luck of the growers remains unchanged.