In spite of the animated ambience prevailing among both the country's winter vegetable farmers and consumers, a grey zone peeps through the scene. It comes in the form of negligible profit, in worse cases losses, afflicting a large section of growers due to low price offered by the market operators. They are active at various levels. When vegetables finally reach urban consumers, buyers have to pay prices many times higher than at the farm level. Thus, the whole affair smacks of a great disincentive for producers and end-users. This has happened apparently owing mainly to the erratic behaviour of the market forces following this year's bumper vegetable production. This turn of events was least expected.
With the country witnessing plentiful vegetable harvests in the last few years, the present year was also expected to be one of high yields. It has proved so to the delight of vegetable farmers in vast tracts of the rural area. Farmers growing vegetables such as potato, cauliflower, cabbage, tomato, bottle gourd, radish, carrots, spinach and various other leafy vegetables have achieved high yields this year. Notwithstanding the buoyancy dominating the vegetable sector, things went awry at the levels of both growers and city-based consumers. There is, however, a silver lining. The season also found farmers in many parts of the country in a jovial mood. That a sizeable number of them were fortunate enough to make profits from vegetable cultivation points to the great prospects awaiting the crop. According to agri-experts, Bangladesh may soon witness its long-dreamt-of 'green revolution' with a non-traditional crop --- vegetable. In spite of the declining soil quality, land in Bangladesh is still fertile enough to grow large volumes of vegetables.
The country has long started exporting vegetables to a number of countries. With proper utilisation of the opportunity, and stringently meeting the hygiene-related criteria, vegetable exporters may find a new horizon open before them. Apart from other vegetables, businesses expect cabbage exports to more than double this winter. Exporters are eying the overseas markets of Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam. Among other countries, Spain, China and Indonesia dominate the list of cabbage importers. They are now busy working out ways to explore cabbage markets in South and North Koreas, the EU and North America. Generally speaking, Bangladesh is profusely gifted with the potential for vegetable exports. The opportunity should be utilised in full.
However, fears also loom large. Unscrupulous traders always wait in the wings to make windfall profits by exporting dubious products. It has been seen in the unfortunate turn of events in the case of shrimp exports to the EU. When it comes to exploring vegetable export destinations, the government regulators and watchdogs should ensure that the sector remains free of malpractices. On the home front, the marketing chain should be cleansed of the scourge of intermediaries. It's them who in the main deprive both the growers and the consumers of the benefits of bumper vegetable harvests. In case of export, a system should be developed to help farmers sell their products directly to traders at the ports.
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