Geographical location and demand for herbs have made the locals turn to this profession
People of a village in Gazipur’s Sreepur upazila collect herbs to earn their livings. They collect herbs from remote corners of Bhawal forest, process, and supply them to pharmaceutical companies.
They say they have chosen the profession of herbal trading due to geographical location and huge demand of herbs for medicine.
More than 60 years down the lane, a person of Daleshwar village pioneered this profession. Later, the whole family got involved in it. Now many people of the village are associated with this profession.
Visiting the village, this correspondent sees men and women are busy processing the herbs and drying them under the sun.
He also found another group of people entering there with several rickshaws and vans loaded with herbs.
Seasoned herbal trader, Abdul Kadir Mia, said his late father started the collection of herbal ingredients.
“Back then the Bhawal forest was rich with numerous varieties of medicinal plants and herbs. I used to go to the forest with my father to collect herbs and gradually got involved in this work,” he said.
The 70-year-old said since then collecting medicinal plants has turned into a family tradition.
Another trader, Abdul Mannan, said his father took this as a profession being inspired by Kadir’s father.
“By assisting my father I took an interest in it and have now gotten engaged in this profession as well. Now all the members of my family are involved with the business,” he said.
Collecting points of herbs
Herbal trader Mannan said apart from Bhawal forest, they collect medicinal plants and herbs from forest areas of Mymensingh, Narsingdi and Tangail.
Those who are assigned to collect herbs are given an estimated amount of money in advance, he said.
Later they deposit the herbs on an open storage. Then the herbs are weighed.
“We pay the workers more money or take the extra money from them depending on the weight of the herbs they collect,” Mannan said.
Who are the suppliers?
More than 100 people surrounding Daleshwar village are engaged in collecting medicinal plants.
Azam Ali from Dargahchala village, said they roam throughout the day with rickshaws and vans and collect leaves, shrubs and plants from different sources including forests, roadside bushes and river banks.
“We can fill out two vans a day. Then we take them to the storage and sell them to the traders,” he said.
Abdus Shahid of the same village said prices of common medicinal plants are relatively low and they get a better price for the rare plants but they have to go to remote places to collect them.
He said they get Tk500 per maund for common herbal plants and Tk2,000-2,500 for the rare ones. The rarest plants are sold at Tk4,000-5,000.
Storage owner Rashida of Daleshwar village said she has 20 workers who are involved in different jobs including cutting and slicing plants, drying them, filling them in the sacks and other processes.
They are paid based on the herbal plants they work on, she said.
Another storage owner Monir Hossain said they face trouble drying herbs in the open place as domestic animals like cows and goats destroy them.
The processing would be easier and would take less time had the storage floor been concrete, he said.
Monir demanded government assistance including loan to help them do better in this profession.