Organic food is not a fad but requirement in a country where food safety has never been a priority. Krishoker Bazar is a humble beginning which facilitates farmers who practice organic agriculture with government support.
The last Friday of 2019 was Izzat Ali's fifth day of marketing produces at the Krishoker Bazar, a weekend market of safe vegetable in Dhaka.
At the makeshift market on Shech Bhaban premises besides the Manik Miah Avenue, he was selling cabbage, bean, green chilli, coriander leaf, radish, aubergine and red amaranth, harvested in the previous noon.
Izzat and five other farmers – members of the Singair Upazila Farmers' Group, had cultivated the produces from 70 decimal of land at Dhalla union in Manikganj district.
"We cultivate vegetables using organic fertiliser. To prevent the crops from pest attack, we spray liquors of Mahogony seeds (scientific name Khaya Anthotheca) and Neem leaf (scientific name: Azadirachta Indica)," Izzat told The Business Standard.
Despite foggy morning, health conscious shoppers crowded the market to collect safe vegetable freed from toxic fertilisers and pesticides.
Safe food is a top priority for Begum Motia, a housewife of New Eskaton. The senior citizen was found buying vegetables from the market. Motia's daughter first informed her about the market and she made it a point to visit once a week the market that sits twice a week.
"I love to collect fresh organic vegetables from different sources," she said.
The sellers were found either canvasing for their produces, weighing vegetables on electronic scales and filling the shopper's bag or explaining the reasons behind the high price rate of their produces.
The market was inaugurated on December 6 and it lasts a morning on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Ministry of Agriculture has initiated the farmers' market to facilitate marketing of safe food produced by the Department of Agricultural Extension- or DAE-certified farmers.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture Marketing (DAM) is providing logistic support, including collection and transportation of the vegetables directly from the farmland.
Currently, DAE-certified farmers at Savar, Dhamrai of Dhaka; Singair and Saturia of Manikganj; Tongibari and Munsiganj Sadar; and Belabo and Shibpur of Narsingdi, are facilitated at the bazar under the project.
The entomology division of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute had tested 10 samples of vegetables available in Krishoker Bazar, and on December 11, certified that the vegetables contained no residue of pesticides like Acephate, Malathion, Quinalphos and Chlorpyrifos.
A printed copy of the certificate was found hung in front of the awning constructed to house the sellers.
There was a long price chart also. Bottle gourd was selling at Tk40-Tk60 per piece, cauliflower at Tk40-Tk50 per piece, cabbage (red) at Tk40-Tk60 per piece, broccoli at Tk30-Tk40 per piece, tomato at Tk70-Tk80 per kg, pumpkin at Tk25-Tk30 per kg, radish at Tk20-Tk25 per kg, beans at Tk40-Tk60 per kg and red amaranth at Tk10-Tk12 per bunch.
More than one occasion, Ismail Hossain, a government service provider who lives in the Bashundhara residential area, visited the market.
He found that the taste of the vegetables seems almost similar to those he used to take during his childhood.
"The market is less diversified. However, quality is ensured. The authorities should prohibit use of plastic bags in the market. Then we could call this market fully eco-friendly," Ismail said, holding a reusable kitchen bag in hand.
Krishoker Bazar still has limitations. There is no accommodation facilities for the sellers.
Murad Hossain, representing the 150-member Belabo Upazila Farmers' Group, voiced his cocnern, "We arrive at the market on Thursday night and stay till Saturday noon. We have to sleep in covered-van".
He added that sales in the market was yet to get momentum as it is situated near Karwan Bazar, the largest kitchen market in the city.
DAM assistant director Touhid Md Rashed Khan said that initially the market has been launched under a six-month pilot project. With the outcomes, the concerned authorities would give this market a permanent shape. Sellers' grievance would also be addressed that time.
"Winter vegetables are now dominating the market. We have plan to continue this initiative even during summer when variety of vegetable is less," Rashed said.