Rice farmers delighted at Kataribhog’s price hike
Farmers in Dinajpur who cultivate aromatic Kataribhog rice are now delighted at prices having substantially increased recently as demand has gone up.
While this is a blessing for growers, consumers are expected to feel the pinch in their grocery budgets.
Dinajpur Kataribhog is recognised as a Geographical Indication (GI) product of Bangladesh.
According to World Intellectual Property Organisation, the GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
Depending on quality, each kilogramme is now retailing for between Tk 98 and Tk 110, according to traders in Bahadur Bazar and Rail Bazar Hat, the two largest wholesale rice markets in Dinajpur town.
Kataribhog rice can only be grown in specific areas of Dinajpur's Sadar, Chirirbandar and Kaharole upazilas once a year, according to officials of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in the district.
Farmers and the DAE officials in Dinajpur claim that the district has been producing Kataribhog rice for over a century, although no reliable data was available.
And even though Kataribhog is a highly sought-after variety of rice, farmers often opt to cultivate other crops for various reasons.
This includes price fluctuations in the market, low production levels and slow sales, farmers said, adding that Kataribhog rice cultivation was on the decline as growers do not always get adequate prices for their produce.
Still though, a handful of farmers have been growing the rice for generations and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
About a decade ago, farmers from all over Dinajpur collectively took up around 5,000 hectares of land in the district to grow Kataribhog rice but now, the cultivation area has fallen to 1,500 hectares.
This year though, the price has bounced back, renewing hopes among farmers for better things to come.
At least 2.61 lakh hectares of land in the district were brought under Aman paddy cultivation this year, say the DAE officials. Of the total land, 83,851 hectares is being used to grow aromatic varieties of rice but Kataribhog was cultivated on just 1,400 hectares.
During a recent visit to different paddy markets, including Gopalganjhat, Farhat, Panchbarihat and Ambarihat, this correspondent found that a 75-kg bag of Kataribhog paddy was being sold for between Tk 5,000 to Tk 5,200 depending on quality, including moisture content.
Last year, each 75-kg bag of the rice cost just Tk 3,000 to Tk 3,200.
"To get the current rates is rare," Hatem Ali, a farmer of the Fasiladanga area in Dinajpur sadar upazila, told The Daily Star.
Abdul Zabbar of Mukundapur village under Chirirbandar upazila, said he and other farmers have been growing Kataribhog rice on their land for generations but were deprived of even modest rates in most seasons.
So, the cultivation area gradually declined but the current season was much more profitable for farmers that stuck around as they got a better rate, he added.
"Seeing this year's success, I am now willing to increase Kataribhog rice cultivation next season," said Ratan Roy, a farmer of Kougaon village under Dinajpur sadar upazila.
Habibul Islam, joint secretary of the Dinajpur chapter of Bangladesh Economic Association, said farmers in the district were reducing the cultivation area.
"But the sudden price rise increased farmers' confidence in the crop," said the official of the body of economists which makes recommendations on major policy issues to the government and other relevant bodies.
Mahbubur Rashid, additional deputy director of the DAE in Dinajpur, admitted that the area of Kataribhog cultivation has shrunk for various reasons despite having broader prospects.
"The local department has taken initiatives to increase the cultivation area as such," he said.
Apu Deb, owner of Uttara Chaal Ghar at Barabandar area in Dinajpur town, said there was high demand for Kataribhog rice across the country.
"The sale of this particular aromatic rice is high online," Deb added.