Winter is the season for "pitha-puli" and without date palm jaggery (khejur gur), making pitha-puli is almost unimaginable.
This year, the market of date palm jaggery, locally known as patali gur, in Rajshahi is going to see trades of around Tk41 crore.
However, the farmers who produce jaggery are not happy with the prices of their products.
Every winter, gachhis (date juice extractors) collect date juice, condense the juice by heating it and make date palm jaggery. Later, they sell the jaggery in Baneswar haat (weekly market) located on the premises of Baneswar union land office and Jholmolia haat in Rajshahi.
During a recent visit to Baneswar haat, The Business Standard found that the market was buzzing with jaggery sellers and buyers since dawn.
Most of the sellers came from Durgapur, Puthia, Bagha and Charghat upazilas. Some of them collect date juice from their own trees while some take date trees of other people on lease.
Baneswar haat is organised twice a week. The wholesalers buy jaggery from there and then sell the items in different parts of the country.
Moreover, date jaggery is also exported. On the days when Baneswar haat is open, some 100-150 tonnes of jaggery arrive there every day.
Wholesaler Rubel came to Baneswar haat from Dhaka to buy jaggery. Apart from selling it in Dhaka, he will also export it to the United States, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi towards the end of January.
Rubel told The Business Standard, "I usually purchase four to five tonnes of jaggery on any given day when Baneswar haat is open."
There are around 100 businessmen like Rubel who buy jaggery from Rajshahi and sell it in different parts of the country.
Around 30,000 people are involved in producing date palm jaggery in Rajshahi, according to the local office of the Department of Agricultural Extension.
The deputy director of the office, Shamsul Haque, said, "There are 8.88 lakh date trees on 592 hectares of land in Rajshahi. If the average production from each tree is 7.7 kilogrammes, the total production will be 6,835 tonnes.
"If the price of jaggery is Tk60 per kg on average, the total trade will amount to Tk41 crore this year."
However, jaggery producers are frustrated with the prices. Farmer Shah Jamal from Durgapur said he was selling jaggery at Tk60-70 per kilogramme.
"If the price was between Tk80 and Tk90, the farmers would be able to make profits. The production cost is higher than the selling price," he explained.
Another farmer in Durgapur, Mokhlesur Rahman, said, "The syndicate of date palm jaggery businessmen who buy the product from here do not want to offer good prices if we do not mix sugar with date juice. This is because date jaggery looks bright if it is mixed with sugar."
Toufiq Elahi, a farmer from Puthia's Baneswar, said, "This year, there is no adulterated jaggery due to strict monitoring of the local administration. That is why prices are low."
Farmer Idris Ali of Bagha upazila blamed the syndicate of the wholesalers for low prices.
During the visit, our correspondent found that the wholesale price of jaggery was between Tk60 and Tk70. On the other hand, jaggery was being sold at the retail price of Tk100-130 in Rajshahi city.
The retailers and wholesalers said the retail price of jaggery remained the same throughout the season.