Boat trading in Pabna has gained momentum as it is the only hope for the people of Chalan Beel area to cross the beel and fish; in this season. As demand is high, the carpenters in the area are busy making boats.
The boat haat (open-air market) at Ershadnagar in Pabna is now abuzz with the presence of buyers and sellers; as the roads, ghats, canals, and beels are full of water in the rainy season.
This traditional haat of BL Bari union in Faridpur upazila has been around for more than three decades. The haat is held twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays from 7am to 4pm.
Boat sellers said 250 to 300 boats are sold at each haat; which occurs twice a week. Transactions at the haat reach between Tk10 lakh and Tk12 lakh per day. As such, weekly transactions at Ershadnagar haat stand at around Tk25 lakh.
Bargaining between buyers and sellers is a daily feature of this market; which goes on from morning to afternoon. The sellers charge Tk2,000 to Tk30,000 for each boat; depending on their design, size, construction materials, and build quality.
In a visit to Ershadnagar boat haat, this correspondent saw hundreds of small boats (locally called as kosas and dinghies) queued up across a field. Mostly people from flood-affected areas thronged the haat.
Buyers said that the price of the boats are a bit higher than in previous years. Wholesalers from different parts of the country also visit and transport boats from the haat in trawlers, trucks and vans.
Ali Sheikh, a buyer of Shahjadpur, said, "I buy a boat every year, for fishing, at the very beginning of the rainy season. This year, the price of boats is higher than last year. I bought a boat for Tk4,500, but it would have sold for Tk3,000 last year."
Boat trader Ranjan Biswas said hundreds of boats – made of koroi, mango, raintree, chambal, sundari and mahogany wood – come to this old boat market from: Mirzapur of Chatmohar in Pabna, Handial, Nurnagar, Gurudaspur in Natore, plus Mannan Nagar and Tarash in Sirajganj.
"The price of boats is high this year because of the higher wages of workers plus pricey wood and iron nails used for the boats," he added.
Shri Shankar, a boat carpenter of Chatmohar, said "It takes at least a day for two carpenters to make a boat. Depending on the size of the boat and wood quality, it sells for between Tk3,000 and Tk30,000. "
Rafiqul Islam, Deputy General Manager of Pabna Bscic Industrial City, said the necessity of boats is enormous in riverine Bangladesh during monsoons. Boat haats are held in this part of the district at certain times of the year. Now there is no such business in a boat market.
He said there are plans to make a list of those involved in the industry and bring them under incentives; including employment initiatives through training.