The chilli traders of Sariakandi sold around 10,000 tonnes of dried chilli to different spice processing companies last year
Chilli cultivation is increasingly popular in the char areas of four northern districts – Pabna, Sirajganj, Bogura and Joypurhat – due to growing demand for, and yield of, the crop. Last year, chillies were cultivated on 71,000 bighas of land while this year the crop is being grown on more than 74,500 bighas in the districts.
Over the last several years, most of the country's spice processing companies have purchased chillies from the region; this has created a permanent market for the spice there. Companies like Pran-RFL Group, Square Group and ACI Ltd have purchased chillies from there for the last 10-12 years. In recent years, other spice processing companies, such as Tiger and Beauty, have also sourced chillies from the region.
The crop has a good yield in the char areas.
Our correspondent reports from Bogura after talking to the local traders, farmers and officials of the Department of Agriculture Extension.
Every year, farmers in the char areas must contend with river erosion. However, the phenomenon also brings silt to the land, making the land fertile. Thus, no fertiliser or pesticides are needed to grow crops on that land.
Abdul Halim, Sariakandi upazila agriculture officer, said chilli was cultivated on around 29,000 bighas of land in Bogura's Sariakandi, the largest chilli-producing area in northern Bangladesh, last year. This year, around 30,000 bighas of land was used to produce the crop, he said.
"This year, the chilli production has increased by seven maund per bigha as the weather was favourable. Additionally, the farmers are getting good prices for the crop. At the field level, the price of green chilli has increased by Tk20 per kilogramme since last year," said Halim.
However, the farmers claimed that they would earn more profits from chilli if it was not imported towards the beginning of the season.
The chilli traders of Sariakandi sold around 10,000 tonnes of dried chilli to different spice processing companies last year.
Farajul Islam Boltu, a chilli trader of Sariakandi, said, "Spice processing companies' demand for chilli has increased. Plus, chilli prices have increased on the international market – which is why the crop's price has increased."
Sahajjat Karim, another trader of Sariakandi's Hatphulbari, echoed this and said last year he sold around 400 tonnes of chilli to different companies. This year he wants to sell more. However, he fears that he might not be able to sell more due to high prices at the field level. "I bought each maund of dried chilli at Tk6,000 last year, but this year I purchased the same quality of dried chilli at Tk8,000 per maund," he said.
Moslem Uddin, a farmer of Pakuria Char in Sariakanda, said he has harvested 80 maunds of chilli from two bighas of land this year – whereas he got 90 maunds of the crop from three bighas of land last year. He added that he sold the chilli at a good price.
"Last year, a kilogramme of chilli sold between Tk13-Tk15 whereas it is selling for Tk35-Tk40 this year," he said.
Rafiqul Islam, a farmer as well as a chilli trader at Hindukandi village in Sariakandi, said he earned Tk33,000 by selling around 21 maunds of red chilli grown on 22 decimals of land last year. However, this year he has harvested around 26-27 maunds of red chilli from the same land and sold it at Tk50,000. He also purchased around 250 maunds of red chilli at Tk2,000 per maund to sell it to spice processing companies.
Chillies are sold in three forms – green, red and dried. The companies only purchase dried chillies from the traders. The traders buy red chillies from the farmers and then dry them to sell them. Some farmers also sell dried chillies to the traders.
However, some local farmers have alleged that farmers in many remote char areas are being compelled to sell chilli at cheaper prices due to poor infrastructure in the area.
Moslem said that after harvesting chillies, the farmers of Pakuria char have to go to a haat (weekly market) adjacent to their area to sell the crop. It takes several hours to reach the haat, which is only a few kilometres away from the char, due to the very poor condition of the roads in the area. "It costs both time and money," said Moslem.
When asked about the poor condition of the roads, Kazi Saiful Kabir, Local Government Engineering Department's executive engineer in Bogura, said, "The Jamuna River always changes its course. That is why the roads adjacent to the river banks frequently face erosion. So, the government does not have a plan to build a road in the char areas now. However, the government is mulling the idea of constructing roads in some large chars of Sariakandi, Sonatola and Dhunot."