Farmer Rayes Miah from Khaliyajuri upazila in Netrakona only used to cultivate Boro paddy on his land in haor areas and spent the remaining months of the year searching for work elsewhere.
Three years ago, the idea of an alternative means of earning during the monsoon, when his cropland remains waterlogged, popped into his head and accordingly he embarked on duck rearing. Since then, the low-investment business has been contributing a lot to his income.
This winter he is hoping to make a profit of Tk1.5 lakh by selling eggs and ducks from his farm – investing only Tk57,000.
Meanwhile, on 24 December, 2020, Shwapno Tori, a platform of students from different universities in Dhaka who are from Burhanuddin upazila in Bhola, arranged a festival named "Duck Party." Duck was the main attraction of their gathering.
Demand for duck – be it at a friendly party or family gathering – has become a trend in winter all across the country where people go for hangouts to keep themselves warm with food, jokes and fun.
Besides cheering people up, such parties and festivals have also warmed the duck business.
This time of the year, people buy this bird more than at other times as duck meat is tastier than poultry chicken. Each duck costs Tk300-400 and gives 1-1.5 kilogrammes of meat.
The high demand for duck has led to over 14% growth in the duck population in the last five years, according to the Livestock Department's data.
Meanwhile, the chicken population has grown by 10% during the same period.
In 2015-2016, the number of ducks in the total livestock population was 5.23 crore, which increased to 5.97 crore in 2019-2020.
Bird dealers at Kaptan Bazar and other markets in the capital say most of the ducks come from Haor areas and northern districts, especially from the: Netrokona, Sunamganj, Naogaon, Rangpur, and Dinajpur districts.
In the wake of the increasing demand for duck, meat processing industries and super shops are also branding duck at their outlets.
Recently, Bengal Meat – a world-class and export oriented meat processing industry – posted a promotional advertisement on their Facebook page offering duck meat service this winter.
The post has received a huge response. Some of the respondents wanted to know the price of duck and whereabouts of Bengal Meat's outlets from where they could buy it, while others wanted to sell duck to the company from their farms.
An official of Meena Bazar, a leading retail supermarket chain in the country, said they currently sell around 15-20 kilogrammes of duck every day. But in the summer season, they barely sell this item at their outlets.
Retailers of poultry in the capital said each of them are currently selling around 150-200 ducks per day. But in the summer season they cannot not sell more than 10-15 ducks a day.
Khairul Islam, a duck seller at the capital's Kaptan Bazar bird market who has been selling duck and chicken for the last twenty years, said more people are now buying duck than before.
Duck feathers: Waste turns into a source of money
Generally, people throw away duck feathers after taking their meat. But most of them do not know the value of the feathers.
The waste has become a source of earning as many companies now produce pillows and jackets with duck down and export them abroad.
Duck feathers have become the raw material of many luxury items such as down duvets, feather quilts, feather pillows, down jackets, sleeping bags, feather beds, mattress pads, etc once it is processed.
These products are in high demand both on the domestic market and abroad.
A normal pillow of local brands, made of cotton or garment by-products, costs Tk350-1,200 but a feather pillow costs a minimum of Tk2,200.
Stakeholders said the export price of a duck down pillow weighing 900-1,000 grams is no less than $40 now.
Currently, there are dozens of companies involved in collecting and processing duck feathers.
Some of them have their own farms and others buy the feathers from their agents, who collect the item from households across the country, at a rate of Tk250-350 a kilogramme.
Alliance Feather Products Ltd is one of those companies that have been exporting duck feathers to the United States (US), China and Taiwan since 1981.
The company exported around 200 tonnes of feathers in 2019, said an official of the company.
Meanwhile, in the July-November period of 2020, Bangladesh exported duck feathers worth $59,000 to Chain and Taiwan, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.
Industry insiders said the export volume is a little lower than usual due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
(Our Netrokonaa and Dinajpur correspondents contributed to this report)