Good prices bring smiles to banana farmers
With a bumper banana crop in Gaibandha, the spontaneous and unauthorized banana haat (market) along four kilometres of the Dhaka-Rangpur Highway in Gobindaganj and Palashbari upazila is causing a traffic nightmare.
Farmers in Gaibandha secured a bumper yield of banana in the past two weeks and are earning a high price for their produce compared to last year.
The market usually operates six days a week at three different spots from morning to noon throughout the year. Sources said the market supposed to pack up after 12pm, but during peak banana season between September and November, the markets have been operating until dusk for the last eight years.
According to sources at the Roads and Highways Department (RHD), 32 kilometres of the Dhaka-Rangpur Highway, from Fashitala in Gobindaganj to Daperhat in Sadullapur, fall in Gaibandha.
On a visit to the banana markets this correspondent found a one kilometre stretch of highway in Bokchar, and two kilometres from Fashitala to Mogholtuli in Gobindaganj upazila, and another one kilometre stretch of highway near Dreamland in Palashbari upazila, with heavy traffic backups on both sides of the highway, due to the unregulated banana market.
The haat in Fashitala is on every Monday and Friday, the Bakchar haat takes place every Thursday and Sunday, and the haat in Dreamland is on Saturday and Wednesday.
This correspondent talked to some of the commuters in Fashitala Kalarhaat(banana market) on a Monday morning.
Shamiur Rahman, a schoolteacher on the road, said: "Around 50-60 trucks are loaded and unloaded with bananas every haat day, causing much traffic distress for commuters."
A service holder from Masterpara area in Gaibandha town, Mahmudul Gani Rijon, said: "I visit Gaibandha every week and get stuck in traffic for lengthy periods of time in the banana market areas.”
Abdul Kashem Mia, a bus driver in Rangpur district, said: "Hundreds of vehicles pass through the highway daily. The road from Dhaka was clear of traffic until I came near the banana market. Slippery banana leftovers on the road are risky for small and large vehicles alike."
Executive engineer Md Asaduzzaman of Gaibandha RHD, said necessary action will be taken soon to remove the illegal banana markets on the highway.
Gobindaganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer Ramkrishna Barman, said: "Our farmers produce a lot of bananas but there is no specific spot fixed for them to sell. Eviction drives will be conducted soon to clear the highway.”
When asked why farmers sell banana on the highway, a banana farmer Rejaul Karim of Katabari village, said: "We can get more customers on the highway and are able to reduce the transport cost. Moreover, wholesalers from Dhaka don't want to buy our bananas from anywhere else but on the highway."
A similar point of view was expressed by farmer Abdul Jobbar of Sultanpur village in Palashbari upazila.
Good price brings smile to banana farmers
Farmers from three of the haats expressed joy with the good prices for their bananas. Most farmers are directly selling their produce to wholesalers on the highway. The banana varieties of the markets include: Anupam, Champa, Deshi Sagar, Rangin Sagar, Kanaikala, Malbhag, and so on.
Foyzar Rahman, a farmer from Mokamtala village in Gobindaganj, said: "I have cultivated banana on one bigha of land spending Tk16,000 this year, and have already sold a portion at Tk40,000. I am hopeful about making another Tk50,000 in profits this season.”
Jonab Ali of Chandpara village of the same upazila, said he cultivated banana on two bighas of land spending Tk30,000 this year. He hopes to sell his bananas for Tk2 lakh.
Wholesaler Kuddus Alam, from Karakandi of Comilla, said: "Last year it cost me around Tk150 to buy a single bunch of bananas (80 to 90 bananas). This year we have been paying Tk250 a bunch.”
This year, banana was cultivated on 480 hectares of Gobindaganj upazila. Kamardoho, Kochasahar, Phulbari and Gumaniganj union of Gobindaganj upazila, and all of Palashbari and Sadullapur upazila, are famous for banana yields in the district.
Md Khaledur Rahman, agriculture officer in Gobindaganj upazila, said: “Farmers are motivated to cultivate banana in Gaibandha. It’s considered a cash crop in the region. But, we need a specific location for banana markets here.”