About 15 years ago, four growers' markets were launched in Bogura under the "North-West Crop Diversification" project to ensure fair prices for the grassroots farmers who sell their produce directly to the wholesalers.
Apart from ensuring fair prices, one of the main goals of the project was to empower women by increasing women's participation and creating new small agriculture entrepreneurs, but most of the markets in Bogura and 16 districts of North Bengal, including 76 retail and wholesale markets in Rajshahi and Rangpur division are now in a state of sheer disorder.
Due to lack of required supervision by the District Agricultural Marketing Department, district agriculture marketing officer and retail market management committee, most of the markets have gone under the control of influential middlemen traders.
The project aimed at economic development, poverty reduction and job creation of marginal farmers through crop diversification and intensification of 33 high-price crops (fruits, vegetables, spices and cereals).
Funded by the Asian Development Bank, four markets were established in Bogura in 2007-2008 at Tk3.60 crore and other markets in 16 northern districts at Tk56.60 crore.
Various facilities such as packing house, grading, sorting, washing, drawing unit, loading, unloading area, storage warehouse, women's corner, market management committee office cum training centre, drain with sanitary latrine, road and dustbin have been provided in these markets.
A group of farmers within 1.5 kilometres of the market area would market their products here and one of them would take these products to Dhaka or different parts of the country for sale. For this, the farmers have been trained in several steps but they are deprived of these benefits.
By exerting influence, middlemen traders are using these markets as warehouses and selling products.
At the Mahasthan market in Bogura, its caretaker Rajikul Islam said he guards products of local businessmen in exchange for money whereas the market has been allocated among 37 farmers who are supposed to use it for storing their produce.
He also said that the women's corner of the market has been closed for 10 years.
According to the Bogura District Agriculture Marketing Department, there are three retail and wholesale markets (growers) in the district.
A farmer on the Mahasthan market committee alleged that the retail market is occupied by local influential politicians. There is no one to supervise these. No one has ever seen the district marketing officer visiting the market. The market committee is also not active.
The condition of the retail market at Dublagari market in Shajahanpur upazila in the district is virtually non-existent. The market is open two days a week.
The women's corner has not been opened since the market was created. The market is run by another business group outside the local member farmers.
Abdur Rahman, a farmer from Sajapur village in the upazila, said there was no difference between selling vegetables or goods at the retail market and the Dublagari market. Everything is under the control of local traders. There is nothing under the control of the farmers.
The situation in the wholesale market of Sherpur upazila is almost the same.
Belal Hossain, who works as a labourer here, said that the market is run by six traders who have been doing business here since the market was built.
However, district marketing department sources said that the market has been allotted to 15 farmers.
A businessman named Nazrul Islam said that six businessmen run the market, of which only two are among those to whom the allotment has been given.
Asked about the overall situation of the growers' market, District Marketing Officer Tariqul Islam said, "Women traders have not developed in the district town yet, which is also a problem in our market. The market is meant for women but no woman sits here."
Claiming that the condition of Bogura is better than other districts, Tariqul added, "Most of the growers' markets in Naogaon and Natore are closed."
The growers' wholesale vegetable market at Rajarhat in Kurigram, which has been set at a cost of Tk5 crore, has not been launched yet. The building is now abandoned.
Growers' markets in Dinajpur are also occupied by middlemen. As a result, farmers are being deprived of fair prices as they are not able to bring their produce here.
Besides, six growers' markets in Thakurgaon have been virtually abandoned since its inauguration.
Anwarul Haque, deputy director of the Agriculture Marketing Department of Rangpur division, said that the agricultural marketing system has changed. Now every farmer is associated with another business or something else. Now the products are being sold in the field. So, many farmers are not interested in going to the markets.
Even then most of the markets in the Rangpur division are open. There may be problems with a few things, he added.
The situation is the same in Kalai of Joypurhat and paddy warehouses have been set up inside the growers' market without heeding the rules and regulations.
Rajshahi Division Agriculture Marketing Department Deputy Director Taslima Khatun claimed, "Almost all the growers' markets are running well. All the markets under us are open. However, the involvement of farmers may be a little less, which is being investigated."