Rice prices are fluctuating frequently because wholesale buyers are not coming to the market as they did before the pandemic
- The floating market has been operating for around 200 years
- This is where farmers get the chance to sell their rice at fair prices
- Pandemic has marred the happiness of farmers as rice prices are fluctuating frequently
- In the past, a good number of boats carrying buyers would come to the market regularly
- Now the number of boats coming has decreased
The Sandhya River at Banaripara in Barishal wears a beautiful look when hundreds of boats are moored on its eastern bank during sunrise. The floating market is famous for selling the best quality rice of different varieties.
The market opens early in the morning and continues till noon four days a week around the year. The days are Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
Buyers come to the market in large boats early in the morning. Some boats even reach there the night before market day.
The floating market has been operating for around 200 years, according to local people. This is where farmers get the chance to sell their rice at fair prices.
But the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has marred the happiness of farmers as rice prices are fluctuating frequently because wholesale buyers are not coming to the market like before.
In the past, a good number of boats carrying buyers would come to the market regularly from different districts. But now the number of boats coming has decreased.
Abdul Jabber came to sell his rice at the market last Saturday. Fortunately, he found a good number of local buyers and sold his rice at good prices.
"But that is not possible on all market days as local buyers do not come often," he said.
On that day, per kg rice was sold for Tk45-50 depending on quality and variety.
On most market days, farmers now have to sell their rice at low prices for the scarcity of wholesale buyers.
The number of boats of farmers also impacts rice prices.
"Prices go high if there are fewer boats, and vice versa," said Sadek, a farmer who processes paddy to make rice and sells in the market.
Each boat carries 10 to 20 maunds of rice according to its size, and 100-200 boats come to the market on market days. But now the number of boats has dropped to half.
The fall in supply has brought blessings for some farmers but it is a burden for wholesale buyers, said wholesalers.
"Usually, on a market day, I buy 150 to 200 maunds of rice, but now I can buy only 50 to 100 maunds due to the pandemic as not many boats are coming," explained Riaz Hossain, a wholesale buyer from Jhalakathi Sadar.
"My fuel and other costs remain the same, but I have to buy less rice now because of low supply," he added.
The people of Banaripara and neighbouring upazilas also buy rice from the floating market because of the good quality.
"I come to the market to buy rice for my family at low prices. But today the price is high because not many boats have arrived," said Jahid, a shopkeeper of the Chakhar area.
Around 1,000 to 1,500 maunds of rice is usually sold on each market day and the transaction is Tk1.5-2 crore, buyers said.
They said now the amount of rice sold is usually between 500 to 1,000 maunds.
Hundreds of local farmers are directly involved in processing rice from paddy.
After selling rice, farmers return home after buying paddy from the floating paddy market on the west side of the river in the afternoon on the same day.
The ongoing pandemic and machine-run paddy processing factories are the main threats to the survival of the market, farmers said.