Agro industries and farmers across Bangladesh are switching to mobile markets to reach their customers during the Covid-19 shutdown
Sadeek Agro Limited found itself in deep trouble when the Covid-19 shutdown in March whisked customers away. The Dhaka-based agro-farm also began encountering hurdles to transport milk, meat and other dairy products.
With the changing situation, the farm switched to online sales and began selling at mobile markets. It is now selling 1,500 litres of milk and nearly 300 kilogrammes of red meat every day.
Not only this Dhaka-based agro company, but farmers across the country have collectively switched to mobile markets to sell dairy products, meat and fish. They are renting pickup vans, CNG autorickshaws or motorised three-wheelers to transport the products and reach customers at their homes.
"Our sales through traditional means dropped drastically at the very beginning of the lockdown. The revised sales strategy has put us back on track as people now feel more comfortable shopping from home," said Mohammed Imran Hossain, director of Sadeek Agro.
On April 22, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock sent letters to deputy commissioners and district livestock officers to facilitate mobile markets. The letter instructed the officials to introduce mobile markets in a bid to help farmers struggling with piling-up products.
The district level livestock officers then introduced mobile market networks – connecting farmers and buyers. A central control room was set up at the livestock ministry to resolve issues faced by mobile markets owing to the shutdown-led movement restrictions.
Assistant Director of the Department of Livestock Services Dr Mohammad Jasim Uddin told The Business Standard that 2.8 crore litres of milk, 1.13 crore eggs and 23.49 chickens had been sold in the last nine days at the mobile markets across the country. Additionally, turkeys, ducks, mutton, pigeons and dairy products are being sold at the markets.
"The sales amount to more than Tk45 crore and mobiles markets are gaining popularity," added the official.
Farmers struggled to sell their products when the Covid-19 shutdown was announced in March. Many even dumped their agro-products as demand crashed when restaurants and other bulk buyers shuttered due to Covid-19.
Apprising the mobile market initiative, Bangladesh Poultry Industries Central Council President Moshiur Rahman suggested that the coverage of the market network be widened so that marginalised farmers benefit from it.
Dr Amitavo Chakrabartty, deputy secretary to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, said, "The farmers are setting up the mobile markets of their own. They are supervising the markets and lending a hand to them when any issue arises."
"We are also working to connect the root-level farmers so that they can get fair prices for their agro-products," said Dr Amitavo.
In the meantime, the Department of Fisheries has asked district and upazila level fisheries officials to include fish in relief goods and take measures for online fish sales.
The department said fish farmers are struggling to sell their products amid the pandemic. An office order of the department, Saturday, said many affluent people are conducting individual relief operations.
It said, "Demand for protein and nutrition of the poor can be met if carp are included in the relief goods. This inclusion can solve fish farmers' issues over slumps in sales."
In a joint effort at Homna upazila in Cumilla, local fisheries officials and upazila administration have already distributed fish as relief for marginalised people.