The two-storied concrete building looks like the last thing that could be a village wholesale market. The state-of-the-art structure catches anyone's eyes who passes by the Dumuria-Chuknagar road. The jaw-dropping smart building is not something one expects to see in a remote rural area.
The Village Super Market in Khulna is a marvel, both as an architecture and as an idea.
The 86,000 square feet business compound offers a trading floor for rural farmers that is quite unlike anything they are familiar with. Besides, it is a market hub with international standard food safety facilities for the producers and offers an opening to big buyers.
"Its main goal is to ensure fair price for farmers," said Mamun Hossain, manager of the facility. "The biggest woe for rural farmers is that they do not have proper access to markets that are infested with all kinds of middlemen. They make the trading system complicated. We are offering the farmers a market without middlemen and without the system of 'tola' – a toll system that has become synonymous with traditional markets."
Funded by The Netherlands government, the market is established by Solidaridad Asia, a Dutch-based international organisation. The Village Super Market (VSM) is a collaborative effort together with Solidaridad and Architect Nazimuddin Payel, principal architect of the reputed architectural consultancy firm Vaastukalpa Architects Ltd from Bangladesh.
Apart from Dumuria, there is another Village Super Market built in Jashore. A trustee board is looking after the management of the markets.
Located in Tipna, few kilometres from Dumuria Upazila Sadar, the ground floor of the Village Super Market hosts 30 auction booths, 20 of which are reserved for fish sales and the rest for vegetables. There is a milk auction centre in the rear building.
This unique market will be formally inaugurated in the beginning of 2020. It is now in the pilot phase, running on a small scale.
The market opens at 9am and by 4pm, the trading closes.
When the Business Standard team set foot on the market premises this November, it was well past 4pm. We still found some fish sellers wrapping up their daylong sales.
Abdur Rahman, salesman of the Sukarna Matsya Arot, said that they have been allotted one auction booth, a 12x12 feet space surrounded by walls on three sides, with an annual rent of Tk1,05,000.
Earlier, they had a contract of giving the market owners a 30 percent commission from the sales. However, it did not prove profitable. So most of the fish sellers quit, leaving the total floor empty for a couple of months. Then ten sellers returned under a new contract.
"The auction booths are frequented by wholesalers, who sell the fishes at different markets," he said.
We found the ten vegetable auction booths unoccupied.
"We are having a second round of farmers getting allotments, as the initial selection fell into the wrong hands," said Mamun Hossain, the manager. "Once the process is done, we will have a busy kitchen market here."
We found a milk sales centre at a separate building at the back. It has machines that can test the quality of the milk. Brac Dairy collects milk from this centre. Every day, 64 cattle farmers sell milk here with an average price of Tk45 per litre.
Next to the milk centre, there is an ice producing facility along with a modern packaging and storage centre.
Mamun added, "Hygiene is our top priority. We follow Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), which is an internationally recognised system for reducing risk of hazards in food."