The vegetable growers of Cumilla had always worried about their produce for lack of marketing and storage facilities, but now there has been a surprising reverse in their fate.
It all began with when they started exporting vegetables to the Middle East and Europe with the help of a government marketing centre.
These vegetables are collected from 400 marginal farmers who formed 20 associations with the help of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).
The export volume of the chemical-free vegetables keeps rising, bringing back smiles to the farmers’ faces.
According to the Agricultural Products Procurement and Marketing Centre located at Nimsar Bazar, seven tonnes of vegetables are exported from the district every month on average while it goes up to 10 tonnes during winter.
Vegetables like arum lobe, bottle gourd, pumpkin, cucumber, snake bean, bitter gourd, luffa gourd, malabar spinach, red spinach and eggplant are exported to the Middle East and European countries.
Sajeeb Molla, an official at Agricultural Products Procurement and Marketing Centre, Cumilla said 4,620 kgs of arum lobe were exported to the UK and Italy, 1,015 kgs of bottle gourd to Italy, 220 kgs of cucumber to the UK, 220 kgs of pumpkin to Italy in September.
Only 1.5 lakh metric tonnes of vegetables are needed for the district to meet the local demand while several hundred tonnes of vegetables are supplied to Dhaka, Chattogram, Noakhali, Feni, Laxmipur and Chandpur districts, said DAE officials.
During a recent visit to Barira, Nimsar in Burichang and Purba Ramchandrapur in Chandina upazila of the district, the UNB correspondent found that the vegetable growers were busy cleaning and preparing their export items.
Talking to UNB, they said they used to face trouble after taking their vegetables to local markets due to the supply glut, but now they can easily sell their vegetables at farmers’ markets at fair prices.
Mostafa Kamal, general secretary of Farmers Market at East Ramchandrapur in Chandina upazila said, “A association of farmers has been formed here with 60 members. After collecting high quality vegetables from the farmers, they send those to Hortex Foundation for export.
Manjurul Hannan, managing director of Hortex Foundation, said, “We encourage the farmers to produce safe and pesticide-free vegetables. We’re working for the development of the country as well as the farmers.”
Mizanur Rahman, deputy director at Cumilla DAE, said “DAE has taken various steps to export vegetables abroad. A vegetable collection centre has been set up at Nimsar Bazar and farmers’ associations have been formed to ensure the collection of quality vegetables.”
“However, we’ve taken a plan to build a cold storage here for preserving vegetables. We also arrange necessary training for them,” he said.
Govt roadmaps for export
The government has drafted two roadmaps to boost the country’s annual export volume of agricultural goods to two billion US dollars within the next two fiscal years.
A views-exchange meeting over the draft roadmaps was held at Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) auditorium in Dhaka recently. Agriculture Minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque was present at the event as the chief guest.
A committee, formed by the Ministry of Agriculture in June last, prepared the two draft roadmaps -- one to boost the export of vegetables and fruits and another to raise the potato export.
The draft roadmaps identified some major barriers and placed a number of recommendations over boosting the export of vegetables, potato, fruits and processed agricultural goods.
If the recommendations can be implemented, it would be possible to raise the export earnings from agricultural goods to US$ 1.634 billion in the current fiscal year (2021-22) and US$ 2 billion in the 2022-23 fiscal year, according to one of the roadmaps.
Another roadmap states that it would be possible to export 80,000 tonnes of potato in 2022, 120,000 tonnes in 2023, 180,000 tonnes in 2024 and 250,000 tonnes in 2025.
“Now we really feel good as things are changing fast… vegetable farming here will thrive on exports, I can say it for sure,” said Mostafa Kamal.