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Employment opportunities created

Date-gurh becomes boon for Chuadanga, Rajshahi people

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BSS, Rajshahi :
With advent of winter season, date juice collection along with processing gurh (molasses) has become vibrant everywhere in the region, generating employment opportunities for more than one lakh people.
The date-tree farmers, locally known as 'gachhis', are passing busy timesin collecting date-juice and processing molasses at present.
Local villagers said three upazilas like Charghat, Bagha and Puthiya in Rajshahi district are famous for date-molasses. The trading of date-molasses is going on in full swing as winter approaches its gravity.
Produced molasses by the farmers in the three upazilas are being exported
to many foreign countries escalating the rural economy.
Shamsul Haque, Deputy Director of Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), says there are more than eight lakh date trees in the district producing around 8,000 tonnes of molasses valued at around Tk 60 cr  every season.
There are highest number of 3.96 lakh trees in Charghat Upazila followed by 2.99 lakh in Bagha Upazila and 85,000 in Puthiya Upazila. There are also many other date trees on road side, railway tracks and on fallow lands and homesteads while date-molasses are produced commercially here.
Haque said the farmers collect the juice accumulated in the clay pot over night. They evaporate the juice by heating next morning to make solid (Patali gurh) or thick-slurry (Jhola gurh).
He said a farmer can produce 20 to 25 kg of molasses from a single date-tree in a season. As there is no need of extra care of the trees, so it may be a very profitable business.
He added that regular in-taking of sugar or molasses with rice and other nutritious foods is very essential for human especially the children for developing their merit.
Firoj Ali, a date juice harvester of Gaigirpara village under Puthiya Upazila, said he has no any date tree for his own. Every season, he manages permission of collecting juice of 120 trees of others at a cost of Tk 175.
Ali processed around 25 kilograms of molasses from the collected juice every day. He meets his annual family needs with getting profit doing the seasonal molasses business.
Suman Sarker, a molasses wholesaler at Jhalmalia Hat in the same upazila, said sell volume of molasses on every hat-day is more than Taka one crore.
He says blacksmiths are busy making sharp crescent shaped machetes that are used in cleaning and peeling off layers from the neck of date tree for extraction of juice.
Potters are struggling to supply specially designed small earthen pots for collection of juice and big ones for boiling the juice to produce molasses,which are sold in markets all over Bangladesh through traders.
Suman Sarker hoped that the business will play a vital role to change the socio-economic picture of the whole region if everybody comes forward to plant the trees in fallow land.
Trader Anwar Hossain, who comes to Bagha Bazar from Barishal every year to purchase molasses, told the journalists he purchased 40 mounds of molasses at Tk 60 per kilogram.
Mohsin Ali, a retailer at the same market, said he sold molasses at Tk 65 per kilogram last week and the retail price is now on downtrend with rising of production.
He said the farmers of the upazila send molasses to different areas of the country including the capital every year. If they can expand the business, they would achieve huge profit and change their socio-economic conditions.
UNB from Chuadanga adds: Sarojganj Bazar, the country's largest date molasses market in the district, is abuzz with huge buyers with the dip in mercury.
Buyers from across the country are crowding Sarojganj Bazar on Fridays and Mondays as the molasses of this region are said to be the best in flavour and taste. The trading goes on from dawn to dusk during the two days of the week. This time, according to many buyers, the price is a bit higher than previous years due to the huge demand for molasses.
Abdullah Sheikh, president of the market committee, told UNB, "Wholesalers from different districts of the country, including Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Rajshahi flock to this bazaar here to buy molasses."
Around 250-300 tonnes of molasses, worth of Tk two crore, are being traded each day, Abdullah added.
While visiting the market recently, this UNB correspondent found thousands of earthen jars of liquid molasses and cane-baskets filled with molasses bars, popularly known as 'Patai', lined up all over Sarojganj Secondary School ground.
Each of the jars is selling at Tk 900-1000 while one basket at Tk 700-800. Once the deal is done between the buyer and the seller after hard bargaining, the jars are loaded in trucks, and the buyers leave the bazaar in groups.
Many retail customers were seen buying molasses for their families and relatives.
Imran Ali Mondol of Hanurbadari village in the sadar upazila said, "Most of the molasses sold here are homemade ones and as those are produced on the yards of hundreds of farmers of nearby Gurni area."
He further said, "They don't add any sugar or chemical to their products. Though some of the molasses are light brown ones, these are surely pure."
Tabarak Hossain, a businessman from Rajshahi, said, "In comparison with other local markets, we found the products of this area cheaper and better in quality. We don't buy those sugar-mixed molasses. We come here to buy the best molasses."
Mansur Ali, a farmer of Kutubpur village in Sadar upazila, said the prices of date molasses started going up right at the beginning of the current season.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, there are some 3.75 lakh date trees in this upazila alone.
Sadar Upazila agriculture officer Talha Jubair Mashroor said at least 10-12 kg of molasses can be made from the juice of each tree, which means around 3,500 tonnes of molasses are produced here every year.

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