After the weekly Farmers' Market, here comes the first Holiday Market in Dhaka north. While the former was launched under the 'Dhaka Food System Project' of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the United Nations, the latter has just been introduced under the auspices of the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Oikko Foundation. The Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) was in charge of implementing the 'Farmers' Market' project with support from the Netherlands government in cooperation with the DNCC which made the spots available for the purpose.
The main purpose of the earlier initiative was to make an arrangement for safe agricultural produce directly brought to the market by certified farmers. Both consumers and farmers stand to benefit if the 'Farmers' Markets' opened in several areas of the city get going.
However, the Holiday Market's concept revolves around promotion of almost exclusive business of micro, small and medium enterprises in a cluster in this extempore market on holidays. Both makeshift sale points have their advantages and disadvantages. If the weather is nice, the traders can showcase their handicrafts and other wares in a relaxed manner for the intending customers to have a look at those from one end to the other as the small stalls are arranged in a long row with sufficient space in between. But inclement weather can ruin transactions.
The most significant aspect of such open-air --- although there are huge umbrellas, maybe provided by the organisers, under which the wares are arranged on a table --- trading facilities is the direct transaction between farmers/entrepreneurs/manufacturers/artisans on the one hand and customers on the other. The middlemen's role has been done away with in such ventures. In case of the Holiday Market, in particular, what will be most savouring is the elimination of cheating such as selling one thing in the name of another. Hopefully, the element of bargaining will also have no place in this market.
Unlike only the farm produce such as vegetables and fruits grown with organic manure, which are the clinching factor of Farmers' Market, the Holiday Market has a wide range of products produced by the cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSME) sector. Additionally, there were also organic farm produce and products on the first day.
To be arranged on weekly holidays, on the ICT road between the Parjatan Bhaban and the Election Commission at Agargaon as a pilot project, the market may be set up gradually in all the 54 wards of the DNCC. Mayor Atiqul Islam made it clear that it will be done but much will depend on the success of this inaugural venture.
Given the first day's turnout of customers, there are reasons to be optimistic about the closer engagement such initiatives are likely to bring about between CMSME and customers. This means economy at the grassroots level will expand through enhancing internal demand and transactions directly between entrepreneurs and customers. If such markets can see a proliferation at the district and upazila levels, the domestic or local economy will also receive a boost. What is more is the positive influence it will have on diversification of products by encouraging more and more people to come up with enterprising ventures for authentic produce and products.
At a time when vendors are encroaching upon footpaths and even parts of busy roads in the city, such markets can ease the problem to a certain degree but not entirely. To bring about discipline on roads and footpath vending, a comprehensive planning is warranted. Street hawkers must have designated places all across the city to carry out their trade.
Although apparently small business ventures, the CMSMEs have a contribution of approximately 25 per cent to the GDP and this can be increased significantly in order to make the economy vibrant and more equitable than it is now.