An estimated trade of Tk 15-16 crore per week goes on in the biweekly chilli market Mollarhat in Shariatpur’s Bhedarganj upazila during high season.
The market is held on Saturdays and Tuesdays every week in Mollarhat village of Charkumaria union in the upazila. According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), dried chilli worth Tk 15-16 crore is sold per week in the market.
Bhedarganj upazila is surrounded by Padma and Meghna rivers on two sides and the soil of this area is very fertile. Chilli is one of the most cultivated crops in the upazila and farmers get a satisfying yield every season.
But due to the short life span of green chilli farmers opt for drying the majority of their crops. As the demand for dried chillies is high, farmers also get good prices.
Not only local traders but large food processing corporations also come to buy dried chilli from Mollarhat. This is one of the most popular dried chilli markets in the country due to the quality of their products.
In this regard, Shariatpur DAE Deputy Director Dr Robiah Noor Ahmed said, during the peak season Tk 15-16 crore worth of chillies are sold in two market days per week at Mollarhat in Shariatpur’s Bhedarganj. The rest of the year usually Tk 5-6 crores worth of chilli is traded.
He added that they hope the farmers will profit from selling their harvest if the high demand keeps on.
During a visit to the market last Tuesday, this correspondent found that dried chilli was being sold at Tk 280-330 per kg. Although there are only a handful of warehouses in the market, about 250 trades come to sell their products regularly. Some 300 to 350 labourers earn their livelihood by working here.
According to the district DAE, the target set for chilli cultivation this year is 6,580 hectares of land of which the farmers have already achieved 6,475 hectares. So far the yield has been 9,870 tonnes.
Bumper yield, fair prices subsist
Arshinagar farmer Wadud Miah said, “This year I cultivated chilli on 80 decimals of land. Today (Tuesday) I sold Tk 21,700 worth of chilli at the rate of Tk Tk 315 per kg and so far I sold Tk Tk 70,000 worth of chillies in total.” He added that he is not done with the harvest yet.
Farmer Abdul Barek said he is selling chillies for Tk 320 per kg. As the market is close to his house, transportation is easier for him.
Local traders Shafiqul Islam and Swapan buy chilli from farmers who are unable to come to the market and sell them. While the transportation costs are on the rise, they are both happy with the profit they are making.
Day labourer Mohsin said, “We get Tk 2 per kg for packing and loading the sacks on trucks as per the traders’ orders. I earn about Tk 600-1,000 per market day. I am happy with the pay.”
Shahabuddin, the owner of the trade shop Shanta Enterprises, said at least 3,000 maunds of dried chilli is sold each market day on average.
“About 300 to 350 labourers in the area find employment here. Some 250 traders sell their products from the market regularly. Thanks to the chilli trade, the market has expanded and the government is getting revenue from it,” he said, adding that due to the increasing demand for dried chilli, wholesalers from all over the country come to the market.
Zakir Hossain Molla, the owner of the trade shop Zakir and Brothers, said that the wholesale shops sell at least Tk 10-20 lakh worth of dried chilli per market day. The chillies are bought by wholesalers of Dhaka, Chattogram, Barishal, Kushtia, Feni, Choumuhuni and big companies in the country.
A wholesaler named Mahbub Hossain from Shyam Bazar in Dhaka said, “The chillies here are of better quality than other markets. So I started buying dried chilli from here and sell them in Dhaka.”