Sellers collect boats from carpenters in the villages and sell those for very little profit; for example, a medium-sized boat is bought for Tk2,500-3,000 and then sold for Tk2,800-3,500
Like every other Friday, with hundreds of unpainted boats lined up at Pirojpur's 100-year-old floating boat haat (market), sellers kept waiting for customers.
By the end of the day, only a few people had shown up. Fewer still were people who actually bought a boat.
"I brought 60 boats to the market but sold only 20. This year, the number of customers is very low because they are afraid of the coronavirus," said Abdul Kaium, a boat seller at the market.
The sellers collect boats from carpenters in the villages and sell those for very little profit. For example, a medium-sized boat is bought for Tk2,500-3,000 and then sold for Tk2,800-3,500.
Another seller Abul Hossen said he sold 400 to 600 boats in a day last year, but now he sells only 80 to 120 every Friday.
"We have to accept the losses to meet our regular expenses," he added. Many of the sellers borrowed money from different local sources at high interest rates and had to repay those in time, he further said.
However, for the few customers that did show up in the market, the low prices were delightful as such good deals were hard to come by.
"I was very happy to buy a boat for a price lower than the previous year. I bought a boat for Tk3,000, but it would have sold for at least Tk4,500 last year," said Shajahan, a farmer of Atghar.
In the previous years, transactions in the market reached between Tk15 lakh and Tk20 lakh per day. But at present, transactions stand at Tk2.5-Tk5 lakh at the end of the day, according to information provided by market toll collectors.
"Our toll collections have reduced by five times compared to last year," said toll collector Biplob.
There were different kinds of shops in the haat, but much fewer in numbers compared to previous years. Many tourists used to visit the market every Friday, but it has mostly been empty this year.
Located in Atghar of Sarupkathi, the market borders Jhalakathi district. Around 40-50 boat sellers who come to the market from neighbouring villages Chami, Dugi and Banaripara, pile boats on a large trawler and anchor it to the market every Thursday evening.
It is crowded with customers during the beginning of monsoon season and till the end of Autumn. Buyers – mainly farmers and fishermen – come to the market to buy boats suitable for their work and budget.
The price of a boat varies from Tk2,000-8,000, based on its size and build quality.