Staff Correspondent: Spring is knocking on the door. ‘PahelaFalgun’, the first day of spring on the Bangla calendar, will be celebrated across Bangladesh on Feb 14. Flowers are an important part of spring traditions. Women will put on colourful sarees and decorate their hair with flowers, while men will buy them as gifts for their dear ones.
Despite a two-year slump due to the pandemic, florists are hoping to make profits this year during the PahelaFalgun and Valentine’s Day celebrations. The week after that is International Mother Language Day on Feb 21. The combination of events makes February one of the most important months for the flower business, according to traders in Shahbagh.
The flower market has been in disarray for some time due to the coronavirus, with all kinds of socio-cultural events cancelled to prevent the spread of the disease. Many farmers have stopped cultivating flowers as they were unable to sell them during the peak season.
Now, traders at the Shahbagh flower market, the first and largest wholesale and retail flower market in the country, are gearing up for the big month.
Hundreds of enlisted traders lead the wholesale flower market under the ‘Dhaka Flower Traders Welfare Multipurpose Cooperative Society’. There are also 40 retail flower shops under the ‘ShahbaghBattala Small Flower Traders Cooperative Society’.
Flowers worth about Tk 400 million were sold in these shops in February 2020 before the pandemic restrictions were enforced.
But the traders are not aiming so high this time. Sri Babul Prasad, president of the Dhaka Flower Traders organisation, said that florists would be happy if they could sell flowers worth Tk 200-250 million. “This is the peak season for our flower business. The market had been down for a long time. We are hoping to turn things around in February.”
Shahbagh wholesale flower trader Md Monir Hossain said, “We have been facing losses for the past two years. Although business picked up for a short bit in the middle, it is going down again as the omicron variant has become an obstacle for social and cultural events.”
Flower traders are targeting Valentine’s Day and Feb 21 and hopefully the market will be able to turn a corner, he said.
Md Shamim Ahmed, general secretary of Small Flower Traders Cooperative Society, said: “Before pandemic restrictions, each shop used to sell flowers worth at least Tk 40,000 per day. The shops were closed during the lockdown. After reopening, it became difficult to sell even Tk 5,000 worth of flowers.”
A large number of flowers in Shahbagh come from Jashore’sGadkhali and Chuadanga’sJibannagar. Most of the roses come from ‘Golap Gram’ in Savar and Ashulia.
“There are hectares upon hectares of land for flower cultivation in Jashore. But when we visited the district this time, we found one-third of the fields empty. If the sales are good then production will follow. The prices of many flowers have gone up,” Shamim said.
The prices of rose and tuberose will be higher this time, he said. “The price of roses is higher this time due to a fungal attack in Savar’s rose village. Now, I have to spend Tk 6,000-7,000 on flowers that I used to pay Tk 1,000 for. It used to be difficult to sell tuberose for Tk 2, but now you can’t even buy it for Tk 20.”
Babul Prasad of the Dhaka Flower Traders organisation said, “The prices were supposed to be at a tolerable level. But some flowers were destroyed due to rain. The prices have gone up as a result. But flowers can be supplied according to demand, even if the prices are high this time.”
Apart from the pandemic, the metro rail project has created another crisis for florists in Shahbagh. Due to the construction work, the beauty and business environment of flower shops in Shahbagh have been ruined, said Shamim.
“We are still trying to keep the business afloat. There are 40 shops under our association, of which 27 have been affected by metro rail construction. The conditions of those shops are not very good.”
However, the problems will be resolved once the central wholesale flower market currently being built in Gabtoli under the Department of Agricultural Extension opens, Babul said. “All the wholesale flower markets in Dhaka will be shifted to Gabtoli in December.”
There will still be some retail flower markets next to Shahbagh Police Station at the initiative of the prime minister and the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs will handle them, he said.
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