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30 December, 2018 12:08:05 AM
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Appetite for organic food on the rise

Sharif Ahmed, Dhaka
Appetite for organic food on the rise

Only a small number of people living in urban areas prefer organic food, which, inspite of being cultivated in larger quantities, forms only 1 per cent of the total agricultural produce. But demand is certainly increasing.

“Cultivation and consumption of organic food have definitely increased. But the production of organic food hasn't increased by more than 1 per cent. A major portion of our food is contaminated by chemicals,” said Gulam Rabanni, the organiser of Unnayan Bikalper Nitinirdharoni Gobeshona (UBINIG).

Nowadays, there are many local stores in the capital selling organic fruits and vegetables.  

People are becoming more aware of the health hazards posed by pesticides and harmful chemical additives, prompting some organisations, including UBINIG, Nayakrishi Andolon, Prakritik Krishi Biponon Kendra and Shoshsho Probortona to open outlets and produce organic food across the country.

Prakritik Krishi Biponon Kendra commenced its journey on October 24, 2014, in Dhaka on an experimental basis. It primarily started selling hormone- and chemical-free crops from 9am on every Friday and Saturday, Delowar Jahan, coordinator of Prakritik Krishi Biponon Kendra told The Independent.     

“Farmers produce crops but they don’t know where to sell them. So, I took this initiative to make a platform named ‘Prakritik Krishi Biponon Kendra’ where farmers can find a place to sell and display their products and consumer can get a chance to buy them.

“Besides, we wanted to build awareness about organic food among the people of the country by creating the market and demand as well,” said Jahan.

He said, every year, Tk 4,000 crore urea fertilizer has been bought by the farmers as well as harmful pesticides and chemicals.

“We want farmers to be self-sufficient and to grow their own produce free of poison, chemical fertilisers and hybrid seeds,” said Jahan.

Hurdles on the way

 When asked about the challenges, he said, “The quality assurance is the biggest hurdle in this business. Our team always goes to the field to check, monitor and inspect the foods before collecting them from the famers.”

“We have been collecting organic foods from 300-350 farmers for about 20 years,” he informed.  

However, some consumers complain that prices of organic food are too high. Anika Rahman, a housewife, says that prices of these food products are high and not everyone can afford them.

Delowar Jahan explained the reason behind the high price “We have to collect the food from different types of farmers across the country by sending our employees which eventually add up the operational costs of the production.”

About safe food, he said that it aims to achieve a transparent and equitable marketing system by encouraging and expanding the production of safe food. This goal is reached by ensuring profitable prices for crops produced by farmers.     

Marketing strategies                                            

Farmers in Manikganj, Jhenidah, Narayanganj, Tangail and Naogaon districts have been producing crops without pesticides, he informed.

“Every Thursday, our Facebook page gives a list of items from which people can choose and order what they want. Prakritik Krishi makes deliveries all over Dhaka for a fee of Tk 100,” he said.

They have about 15 people on their team, and serve around 300 customers per week.

Farida Akhter, executive director of UBINIG, told The Independent that the prices were generally determined after adjusting the cost of production. "It's inappropriate to say that the prices of organic products are too high compared to other products," she said.

"To promote a health-related food culture and to encourage biodiversity, UBINIG is conducting this agricultural movement. If everyone produces their own food, poison-free vegetables and other food products would be available," she also said.

"We work with food diversity and its protection. But we're too small to create the demand for such food. That is why we encourage everyone to grow their own produce free of poison, chemical fertilisers and hybrid seeds," she added.

Shoshsho Probortona, an associate of UBINIG, has several outlets in Mohammadpur to sell organic food.

However, every product is not always available. In case of a pre-order, Shoshsho Probortona stocks the food item. Home deliveries are also made on request.

Talking to The Independent, Shahnaz Parveen, operation manager of Shoshsho Probortona said that in 1989, Shoshsho Probortona started their journey in Mohammodpur. Now, we have opened another outlet at Ring Road in Mohammodpur.

When asked about their products, she said that red rice, Aush puffed rice, wheat, rice powder, fruits, mustard oil, honey, molasses made from dates, molasses made from sugarcane, chilies, mung beans, lentils, mashkolai, varieties of rice-based products and spices were available here. Describing some challenges, she said that farmers use organic fertilisers to produce crops but that is not always available.

Therefore, production cost goes up and that’s the reason behind the price hike.

“Around 300 farmers in Tangail are working for us to produce organic foods,” she added.

Generally, whether the price of the organic food is high or low depends on the production during a particular year, she felt.

Talking about the demand of the product, she said that the demand was increasing day by day as people were more conscious of their health. The price really doesn’t matter to them.

“We take orders online from our website and our Facebook page as well,” she further said.

Harvest, another such organisation, also provides home deliveries. It stocks milk, sweets, vegetables, fruits, lentils, rice bran oil, honey, pickles, kalizira oil, mustard oil, medicinal herbs, local chicken eggs, curd, spices, brown sugar, brown wheat and red rice.

There is another outlet for organic food, Farmers Market. It is in the Gulshan Avenue area. This outlet remains open from 10am to 12 noon every Friday.

German Butcher is another such outlet in Gulshan. Organic food is sold from here every two Mondays of each month. The outlet is known for selling fresh vegetables.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, from 1984 to 2010, the use of pesticides has been reported to have increased by 4,46,246.78 metric tonnes per year on average.

Farida Akhter said farmers came into direct contact with harmful chemicals when they sprayed pesticides on crops. Their family members also got exposed to the poison. Consumers too became victims of such pesticides when they consumed such crops, she added.  

A World Health Organisation study says 30,000,00 people are affected by the use of pesticides every year.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has advised farmers to reduce the use of pesticides in crop production. In all, 13 pesticides have been banned from use, among them DDT, which is used to prepare dry fish in Bangladesh, is the most lethal.

EA

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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