Turmeric traders thrive, grower profits squeezed

Azibor Rahman with Andrew Eagle

The scene at Jhenidah’s around 50 turmeric processing fields, locally known as chatals, is lively as growers and traders arrive to buy and sell. Chatals near Sheikhpara and Madondanga markets in Shailkupa upazila host hundreds of turmeric growers, from as far away as Meherpur and Chuadanga districts, who have brought raw produce in the expectation of good profit. With the crop’s abundance turmeric traders are understandably pleased but what of the farmers?

In many ways turmeric is an ideal crop. According to farmers it is more worthwhile than many traditional crops due to its potential yield of 4 maunds per decimal.

“Turmeric is very profitable,” says grower Ansar Ali of Shailkupa upazila’s Choto Vadla village. “About 80 maunds can be harvested per bigha which can realise Tk 40,000 in profit.”

He also says a turmeric crop does not require much effort, with neither weeding nor fertiliser required.

But the price offered by traders this year is low. Intaj Ali, a farmer from Pobohati village in Jhenida sadar upazila cultivated around 23 decimals with turmeric this year, of which he has harvested 6, obtaining 24 maunds of the raw spice. He was able to sell his crop for Tk 500 per maund.

Workers spread turmeric for drying in the sun at a field in the same upazila. Photo: Star

According to farmers, a price of around Tk 1,000 per maund would be ideal.

One difficulty for farmers is that the beneficial characteristics of turmeric also favour the traders. “Turmeric does not rot or get damaged,” says Ruhul Amin of Sreerampur village in Shailkupa upazila, who has worked as a turmeric trader for 20 years. “When the market is dull we store it, to sell when prices rise.”

It’s not only local traders who take advantage of turmeric’s durability. Traders from across the country buy dry turmeric in bulk in Jhenidah. According to Ami, 16 truckloads of dry turmeric are purchased in his area every Monday and Friday.

“Undoubtedly it is a profitable business,” says another trader, Alam Hossain of Shantidanga village. “If one can run this business for some time he must prosper. As turmeric doesn’t waste away it will bring a good price, today or tomorrow.” Hossain purchased 5,000 maunds of raw turmeric last year, with plans to buy up to 8,000 maunds this year.

Turmeric trader Shukumar Babu of Sheikhpara meanwhile, says that last year after processing 4,000 maunds of raw turmeric he wasn’t able to substantially profit. But this year he has already bought 5,000 maunds for a maximum of Tk 800 per maund. After processing, each maund will produce 10 kilograms of the spice with a current rate of sale of about Tk. 135 per kilogram.

With the centralised purchasing system even traders from afar save on transport costs. At the chatals thousands of maunds are ready for processing and sale.

Meanwhile chatal workers Aroti Rani Das and Shusila Rani Das report earning Tk 150 per day. Many women working to process turmeric are pleased with even such a small amount to assist in maintaining their fa

Source: The Daily Star. Date: March 2 2016