High demand for quality red chillies driven by bulk purchases by Dhaka-based spice factories has created at least 5,000 jobs, especially for women, in some Bogura villages.
Cultivation of red chillies has led to a dramatic change in the lifestyle of women in the Fulbari area of Shariakandi and in some nearby villages.
Bilkis Begum used to work as a maid and earn around Tk60 every day. Now she works at a local red chilli purchase centre.
"I struggled financially before starting the job. My husband was the only breadwinner at the time," said Bilkis, who, along with her husband Ashraf Hossain, has been working at the purchase centre in Fulbari for the last 10 years.
"I have saved Tk5 lakh for my family as our rainy-day fund. My husband bought a refrigerator and other electronic equipment. He also constructed a building from his earnings," she told The Business Standard.
Big companies such as Square, ACI and Acme, and some multinational companies buy red chillies in large volumes from the purchase centres in Bogura villages.
"On average, I make Tk16,000 per month working at a purchase centre. A decade ago, before starting this job, I used to work as a day labourer in agriculture fields," said Rafiqul Islam.
He said his maximum earning used to be Tk70 per day.
Red chilli trader Md Moksedul Alam said at least 40 spice factories buy around 50,000 tonnes of chillies from producers and sellers in Bogura, especially from Shariakandi, every year.
"The yearly turnover is more than Tk700 crore," said Moksedul, who started his business 17 years ago.
"Seventeen other traders and I started at the same time. I am the local agent of Square and ACI," he added.
Md Rasel Miah, Shariakandi upazila nirbahi officer, told The Business Standard that 27,895 farmers cultivate chillis in the upazila.
"Last year, sales in Shariakandi reached Tk95.64 crore," he added.
Sources at the Department of Agricultural Extension's Bogura office said chillis are now cultivated on 8,400 hectares of land, up from 3,835 hectares in the last ten years.
Production has also risen from 9,920 tonnes to 16,415 tonnes per year in the same period.