Millions of people live in four city corporations – Dhaka North, Dhaka South, Gazipur and Narayanganj – of greater Dhaka. The number of Dhaka-bound people is increasing day by day due to expectation of a better livelihood and employment. But, the food production in these areas is very small and nearly all the food they consume come from other districts. According to a report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a United Nations agency, 11 main wholesale markets in these four city corporations trade around 686, 313 kilograms of vegetables every day. Besides, vegetables come from some other sources. In total, about 700,000 kgs of vegetables are sold daily in Dhaka. The amount of fish sold in the markets stands at 90,540 kgs per day.
Fish and vegetables go to the retailers through these 11 wholesale markets in order to meet the demand of the consumers. Vegetables come to greater Dhaka from 59 out of 64 districts of the country. The commodities produced by the farmers come to consumers after changing few hands resulting in a much more increased price. People concerned believe that it is possible to keep the price of agricultural products steady through proper management and effective oversight. Besides, farmers will get the just price if they can directly sell their produces at the Dhaka markets.
A FAO report titled ‘Dhaka Urban Food System-2023’ shows that a total of 396,950 kgs of vegetables are sold in Karwan Bazar which is around 58 percent and the maximum among all markets. Among other markets, Shah Ali Mazar market sells 1 02,810 kgs, Shaymbazar market 50,750 kgs, Jatrabari market 28,750 kgs, Digubabur market 19,000 kgs, Baipal market 52,903 kgs and Chowrasta market sells 7,400 kgs of vegetables every day.
People have to pay two or three times more in the Dhaka retail markets than the price farmers get for their vegetable at district level. Most of the price increase happens in the wholesale markets although the wholesalers shift the blame on transportation cost and the illegal tolls they have to pay at different stages while bringing the products to the markets from the farmers.
Emran Master, President of Bangladesh Kachamal Aroth Malik Samity told Bonik Barta, “This year, price is high at the farmer level due to lack of supply. Part of the produces have been lost owing to dense fog and rain. They are selling at higher price to minimize the loss. Additionally, some vegetables perish on the way to the markets. Therefore, the wholesalers cannot make much profit.”
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) President Golam Rahman called for strong market management to enable the farmers to directly sell their products in the Dhaka markets. “In our supply chain, a significant amount of vegetables is wasted. The traders do not mind wasting some vegetables to yield a high profit. The plan to decentralize the wholesale markets has not been materialized. If those who produce vegetables can have direct access to the markets, the influence of the middlemen will lessen, consumers will enjoy a lower price and the farmers will get a better price,” he told Bonik Barta.
Dhaka gets fish supply from 20 districts. More than half of the fish is sold at Jatrabari market alone with 51,150 kgs per day followed by Swarighat that sells 11,400 kgs. Besides, fishes in, 5700 kg in Karwan Bazar sells 5,700 kgs, Konabari of Gazipur 1,000 kgs, Baipal 9,190 kgs and Chowrasta market sells 12,100 kgs.
Abdus Salam, a fish seller from Rampura told Bonik Barta, “We buy fish from wholesale market. The price depends on demand and supply.”
Commenting on the overall situation, Dr Akter Mahmud, Professor of urban and regional planning at Jahangirnagar University and former President of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, told Bonik Barta, “The market management has to be decentralized. It is possible if large wholesale markets are set up around Dhaka for the access of produces from farmers from the adjacent districts. This will reduce the reliance on Karwan Bazar or Jatrabari and price will come down significantly.”