Farmer Forad Khan from Janzira upazila of Shariatpur, located on the southern side of the Padma Bridge, has witnessed a significant change in his family's fortunes.
For over two decades, he has sustained his household of six members by cultivating various vegetables on his five bighas of land. However, until recently, the family faced considerable financial strain.
According to him, the inability to secure fair prices for their produce coupled with escalating production costs had placed them under immense pressure.
However, in the past year, the establishment of a direct road communication between Shariatpur and Dhaka facilitated with the opening of the Padma Bridge, has led him to newfound prosperity.
"I now can sell my vegetables at almost double or triple the prices compared to the previous year," Forad Khan said.
The improved income has allowed Khan to support his son's enrollment in a private school in Dhaka, as well as cover the expenses of another family member studying in a private nursing college.
Not only have their financial burdens eased, but the entire family now enjoys a sense of contentment and relief.
Forad Khan attributes this dramatic change to the opening of the Padma Bridge, which has facilitated enhanced trade and market opportunities.
The story of Forad Khan is a testament to the transformative impact of the Padma Bridge on the lives of local farmers in 21 districts in the southwestern region of the country.
Prior to its construction, fair prices for their crops were elusive, with limited wholesale activities in the market.
However, with the bridge now operational, wholesalers from various parts of the country, including Dhaka, have flocked to the region, eager to negotiate and purchase the crops.
Earlier, the agricultural products from these areas faced significant challenges in the market, including the capital, due to the lengthy river journeys required for transportation.
Now, within four to five hours, agricultural goods such as vegetables, fish, and flowers can be conveniently transported to various regions, including Dhaka and Chattogram. Moreover, these agricultural products are even being exported abroad.
This development has had a profound impact on farmers at the grassroots level, as they now receive fair prices for their produce. There has been a visible improvement in the standard of living for the common people over the past year.
Consequently, agricultural produce from the southern region has assumed a prominent role in bolstering the country's economy.
Dr MA Sattar Mandal, emeritus professor of the Bangladesh Agricultural University, told The Business Standard, "The quality of life for people residing in these areas has undergone significant positive transformations. Agriculture had been neglected in the 21 districts primarily due to connectivity issues. However, the situation has now been completely reversed."
"With the opening of the magnificent Padma Bridge, agricultural products, such as jute and onions, no longer face the unfortunate fate of rotting or going to waste. Instead, they can be easily transported to various parts of the country, including the capital," he added.
The government is developing an Agricultural Economic Zone in the Goshairhat upazila of Shariatpur, the district renowned for its abundant agricultural resources including spices and various vegetables.
Parvez Hasan, the deputy commissioner of Shariatpur, has registered 686 acres of the land to the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority in this regard.
Besides, the "Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University Act" has been approved by the cabinet. This act aims to provide agricultural education to the new generation and promote research.
Parvez Hasan highlighted the significant economic activities witnessed over the past year.
"Under the guidance of the prime minister, considerable emphasis has been placed on agriculture, resulting in the reclamation of previously uncultivated lands and the export of agricultural products to different countries, including those in Europe," he said.
Farmers from Satkhira now can transport their produces to different markets in the capital through the Padma Bridge.
Ansar Ali, from Labsa village in Satkhira sadar, said, "Previously, the crossing at the Aricha Ferry Ghat took 7-8 hours. During this time, fresh vegetables would lose their freshness and sometimes even rot. This resulted in significant losses."
However, with the reduced travel time of just 5-6 hours to reach the capital due to the Padma Bridge, Ansar Ali now earns substantial profits from selling vegetables, making twice as much profit as before.
Saleh Mohammad Abdullah, agricultural marketing officer in Satkhira, said that all types of businesses, including the trade of fresh vegetables and fish, have gained momentum due to the Padma Bridge.
"The bridge has expanded the capital's connectivity with the southern region, providing numerous benefits to traders in various ways," he said.
According to sources from the Department of Fisheries, Khulna, around 180 tonnes of fish are supplied daily from the rivers in Khulna, Satkhira, and Bagrehat to the capital.
Additionally, the Department of Agriculture Extension reports that around 600 tonnes of agricultural products are transported daily from these areas to Dhaka.
Jashore, known for its surplus production of vegetables, flowers, and fish, not only fulfils its own requirements but also significantly meets the country's demand.
Abdur Rahim, president of the Bangladesh Flower Society, said, "Previously, the quality of flowers would suffer due to transportation issues, particularly at the ferry ports. However, with the improved transport system, our flowers now reach Dhaka city within three to four hours. As a result, flower producers are engaged in a business worth around Tk400 crore annually."
A substantial quantity of crops and fish is supplied from Patuakhali to various parts of the country. Since fish is a perishable commodity with specific market requirements and selling time, the Padma Bridge ensures efficient transportation, enabling fishermen to fetch good prices for their fish.
Since the opening of the Padma Bridge, farmers in Madaripur have been able to swiftly market their products including onions, lentils, mustard, and coriander.
In Magura, litchi growers have experienced increased sales, generating an additional value of around Tk50 crore this year.
Moreover, around 10,000 hectares of land in Magura are dedicated to vegetable cultivation, with onions and green chillies grown on a significant area of land. The improved transportation system allows for the swift delivery of these products to the Dhaka market.
With the Padma Bridge facilitating seamless transportation, jute and onions from Faridpur reach various parts of the country, including the capital, without delays or challenges.
(Our correspondents from Shariatpur, Khulna, Bagerhat and Satkhira contributed to this story)