The Kundeshwari area of Raozan on the Chattogram-Rangamati Highway is a hub for seasonal fruit trading. Farmers bring fresh muskmelons and watermelons from the fields before dawn, and the market on both sides of the highway is crowded with traders from different parts of the country throughout the day.
The makeshift market has been operating for nearly 40 years, and around Tk2.5 crore of business is done in this temporary market in one and a half months – from mid-March to April.
Wholesale buyers from far and wide come to this market, and even passengers buy seasonal fruits after stopping their vehicles.
During a visit on Sunday morning, workers were seen carrying watermelons and muskmelons directly from the fields on their shoulders and keeping them on the side of the highway.
Traders were seen buying watermelons in a bunch of 100 pieces for Tk18,000 to Tk20,000. Apart from this, the price of 100 pieces of medium sized muskmelons is selling for Tk10,500 to Tk12,000.
School teacher Shyamli Dutta was buying a muskmelon there around 10am.
"Almost every day while passing through this road, I see these juicy fruits displayed. Today I bought a muskmelon for home. As these fresh fruits are affordable, the quality is also good," she praised.
Abdul Malek, a fruit trader in the Kaptai area who bought 200 medium-sized muskmelons at an average price of Tk180 each, said, "Both the price and quality of muskmelons are good in this market compared to the wholesale markets of Chattogram. So for the past few years, I have been buying watermelons and muskmelons from here."
According to farmers, watermelons and muskmelons have been cultivated on about 700 acres of land in five unions of Raozan. They got good prices during Ramadan and Pahela Baishakh.
Farmer Abdus Salam told The Business Standard, "I have been cultivating muskmelon and watermelons for about 40 years. My grandparents have been doing it since before that. Even twenty years ago, farmers used to sell muskmelons and watermelons on the side of the road to locals. At the time, only 10-12 farmers used to bring their fruits to this market."
He said, "Thanks to improved communication systems, the reputation of Raozan's muskmelons and watermelons has spread throughout the country, leading to a tremendous expansion of the roadside market in the last few years. Today, the market sells seasonal fruits worth Tk3-4 lakh every day."
Meanwhile, along with the local farmers, the Department of Agricultural Extension has cultivated watermelons and muskmelons on 83 hectares of fallow land in different unions of the upazila.
"Many lands in Raozan remain uncultivated due to the presence of expatriates. So this time the agriculture department has given six farmers from Noakhali permission to cultivate watermelons on 72 hectares of land and muskmelons on 21 hectares of land," Upazila Agriculture Officer Imran Hossain told TBS.
"Some 12,000 to 15,000 pieces of watermelons are being produced per acre, and about the same number of muskmelons. About 95% of these watermelons and muskmelons are going to different markets in the capital," he added.
Farooq Mia, a farmer in Sultanpur, told TBS, "Once upon a time, watermelons and muskmelons were cultivated in this region with the water from the Dabua canal. But water is not available in the canal in summer.
"If a sluice gate is installed in the Dabua canal, the farmers would be saved from the water crisis. At this time, he also demanded the construction of a cold storage in the upazila for storing watermelons and muskmelons."