The news about the country's first ever village super market in Khulna makes a lot of sense. A long-felt need, this facility is meant to benefit agri-business in general and farmers and rural producers in particular. Absence of marketing avenues in rural, particularly in far-flung rural areas, has been a perennial problem for growth of productivity in those areas. Even, locations with high potential of primary and manufactured products have suffered because of unfair price, causing serious disincentive to producers and farmers alike.
A FE report on the subject, published a few days ago, says that initiated by Solidaridard Network Asia, a Netherlands-based organisation, the village super market (VSM) is set to start functioning from November this year at Dumuria upazila of Khulna district with the primary objective of ensuring fair price of agro produces through farmers' direct participation. The report says more than 1,500 producers would be able to display and trade their products every day in the market. Quoting officials of Solidaridad, it adds that the VSM equipped with all necessary facilities within its 86,000 square feet business compound will be a marketplace for the rural agri-business aiming to benefit both farmers and supply chain actors. Given the opportunity to source directly from over 1,500 producers, the VSM is expected to guarantee a year-round reliable supply to its stakeholders as well as to consistently increase their business volume. The Dumuria VSM will also have 30 auction centres spread over 20,000 square feet, three Fish Inspection and Quality Control (FIQC) certification depots, sorting and grading space, washing facilities with HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) guided packing house.
Marketing of goods produced or available in rural areas suffers not only from poor and unfair price for sellers. Difficulties in carrying goods to the scattered marketplaces, influence of middlemen, lack of quality control, less than required supply in some cases and so on are also critically instrumental in denying sellers/producers the opportunity to get engaged in business activities in a fair and profitable manner. However, the issue, viewed predominantly from sellers' perspective, is also about difficulties for buyers in procuring the right product from the right place and indeed at the right price.
In Bangladesh, the problems of rural marketing, though raised quite often asking for remedy, were barely ever seen to figure with any priority in government planning. Efforts are aplenty from the relevant agencies of the government to help rural people in various horticulture crop cultivation, and poultry, dairy and fish faming. Besides, non-government organisations (NGOs) are involved in assisting rural-based manufacturing. But the fact remains that product development is only an end in itself - self-defeating too -- in the absence of proper marketing opportunities. Peasantry and the agro businesses need constant access to the market, and once the opportunity is made available, product diversification and value addition are also likely to follow. It is in this context that the village super market set to start operation soon in Dumuria is a step in the right direction. There is a definite need to extend all-out supports from all quarters to make it a model to be followed by similar markets in other prospective parts of the country.
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