RAJSHAHI: Trading and business of date juice and molasses has been thriving everywhere here, generating employment opportunities for more than one lakh people.
Sweet date juice is a natural and very delicate drink in winter as a large number of date juice collectors get a way of earning this season.
Date juice extraction along with its follow-up business including processing has become a boon for many people as they are dependent on it for long to make their fortunes in the region.
Villagers said three upazilas -- Charghat, Bagha and Puthiya along with adjacent areas of those — are famous for date-molasses. The trading of date-molasses is now on the closing moment as the winter says good-bye for the current season.
Suman Sarker, a molasses wholesaler at Jhalmalia Hat in the same upazila, said the volume of molasses business on every hat days is more than Taka 10 million.
He said blacksmiths are busy with making sharp crescent shaped machetes that are used in cleaning and removing layers from the neck of the date tree for extraction of juice.
Potters are struggling to supply specially designed small earthen pots for collection of juice and big ones for boiling the juice to produce molasses, which are sold in markets all over the country through traders.
Produced molasses by the farmers in the three upazilas are exported to many foreign countries, escalating the rural economy.
Ramzan Ali, a date juice harvester of Hatgodagari Kathalpara village under Paba upazila, said he has no any date tree for his own. Every season, he manages permission to collect juice from 120 trees of others at a cost of Taka 175.
Ali processed around 25 kilograms of molasses from the collected juice every day. He meets his annual family needs with getting profit doing the seasonal molasses business.
Trader Anwar Hossain, who comes to Jhalmalia Bazar from Barishal every year to purchase molasses, said that he purchased 40 mounds of molasses at Taka 60 per kilogram.
Mohsin Ali, a retailer at the same market, said he sold molasses at Taka 65 per kilogram last week and the retail price is now on a downtrend with rising production.
He said the farmers of the upazila send molasses to different areas of the country including the capital every year.
If they can expand the business, they would achieve huge profit and change their socio-economic conditions, he added.
Mozder Hossain, deputy director of Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), said there are more than 0.8 million date trees in the district producing around 8,000 tonnes of molasses valued around Taka 600 million every season.
There are a total of 0.39 million trees in Charghat upazila followed by 0.29 million in Bagha upazila and 85,000 in Puthiya upazila.
There are also many other date trees on roadside, railway tracks and on fallow lands and homesteads while date-molasses are produced commercially.
Agriculturalist Hossain said the farmers collect the juice accumulated in the clay pot overnight. They evaporate the juice by heating it the next morning to make solid (Patali gurh) or thick-slurry (Jhola gurh).
He said a farmer can produce 20 to 25 kgs of molasses from a single date-tree in a season. As there is no need for extra care of the trees, it may be a very profitable business.
He added that regular in-taking of sugar or molasses with rice and other nutritious foods is very essential for humans, especially the children for developing their merit.