Hunt for safe food

Mahfuzul Haque and Sadiqur Rahman write about the ways most citizens of Dhaka obtain pure food for their family members

ali hossain mintu

ali hossain mintu

For years, citizens of the country have been struggling through the food adulteration crisis. As a number of initiatives by government, civil society and trade bodies proved unsuccessful against the menace, people of the country are like hostages in the hands of unscrupulous food traders.
Still, a group of consumers are trying to battle the menace by finding ways through which they can achieve food in their purest forms. Despite paying more or even going through hardships like waking up around dawn to go to the fish wholesale market, these consumers are leaving no stones unturned to get the best food for their loved ones.
New Age Xtra talked to a few of these individuals.

Sweet as honey

Nearly four years ago, Mahmudul Hasan, a private bank employee in Dhaka, bought a kilogramme of honey from Krishi Market at Mohammadpur. Later, he discovered that the honey he bought was adulterated as it became thinner with time. ‘That was the last time I bought honey from Dhaka markets,’ he tells New Age Xtra.
A few days later, he went to his cousin’s house in Khulna and met a honey collector there. His cousin assured him that the honey is pure and actually collected from Sundarban. He bought half kilogramme honey from the collector and later found it to be good.Since then Hasan has maintained regular communication with the collector in order to buy honey from him. ‘As soon as I need honey, I call him and he delivers it through courier,’ Hasan shares. ‘I have to invest extra now to get the honey, but at least I am getting the pure item,’ he says.
Ahmed Aziz, an employee of Rangs Group, went on a vacation at Jaflong in Sylhet about a year ago. There he met a group of honey collectors who collect honey from the nearby jungle. He observed that the group sells honey after collecting it from beehives. Back then he bought three kilogrammes of honey from them.
A few days ago, he again visited the place and ended up buying four kilogrammes of honey this time. ‘I have to visit Sylhet once or twice in a year for my office assignment. So I do not spare the chance to get pure honey,’ Aziz says.
Hafiz Al Asad, an admin officer of City School International in Dhaka, buys honey from Joyeeta in Dhaka. There the sellers confirm Asad that they collect the honey from honey cultivators in Tangail and Mymensingh. For the past one year, Asad regularly buys honey from the shop.

Miles to cross for fresh vegetables
003Dr Mubarak Ahmad Khan, director at Institute of Radiation and Polymer Technology of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission in Savar, regularly buys vegetables from Hemayetpur bazaar of Savar. He hardly buys vegetables from Dhaka’s kitchen market.
‘As my office is at Savar and I have to travel via the bazaar regularly, I do not spare the chance to buy fresh items from the farmers who sell vegetables,’ he says. He has been buying items from this bazaar for the last couple of years. ‘I have become a known face to the sellers there. Now they keep the fresh items for me,’ Khan shares.
Housewife Marium Begum has been in a quandary. Having lived in Gabtoli for the past four years, she bought fresh vegetables that came from Savar and Manikganj from the Gabtoli bazaar.
She has recently relocated her house to Tejgaon area. ‘As I do not get fresh items here, I have to go to Gabtoli three to four times a month just to buy fresh food,’ she says.
Tanvir Ashraf comes on weekends to the shop of Natural Agriculture at Lalmatia from Moghbazar. Some university graduates took the initiative to inspire farmers in Tangail, Jhenidah and other districts in the country to cultivate vegetables without chemical fertilizer and pesticides.
The graduates bring the produce to Dhaka where they sell these to the city dwellers. Ashraf is a regular customer of the shop. ‘I come here to get the pesticide free items for my family,’ he says.
Also, in Gulshan, ‘The Farmer’s Market’ has become quite popular amongst the residents in the adjoining areas as they sell fresh and organic fruits and vegetables there during the morning.

Sacrificing sleep for fish

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At least twice a month, Atikur Rahman (35) has to wake up around 6:00am in the morning. The resident of Uttara goes to the Azampur or Abdullahpur wholesale fish markets during the wee hours of the day, bargains the price of fish with traders and buys many type of sea and sweet water fishes within a matter of hours.
‘I get it at least Tk 50 to 60 less per kilogramme of fish here than I will get in the kitchen markets later during the day,’ he says. ‘Also, at the wholesale markets, the fishes, especially Pangash and catfish, are alive and not laced with formalin,’ he adds.
Rahman shares that some of his friends living in Dhanmondi or Green road go to Kawranbazar at similar hours in the morning to buy fish.
It has been widely reported in the media that traders soak fish in various hazardous items in order to preserve them.
To be certain that the fish he is buying is not laced with formalin or other chemicals, Mizanur Rahman, a private service employee in Dhaka, goes to Manikganj once a month to buy fresh fish from the traders. ‘Though I have to invest time and bear more through travel cost, I am happy to buy fresh fish from there,’ he shares.
Some citizens of Dhaka, who have their own vehicles, embark on long drives from Dhaka, very early in the morning, to Mawa ghaat just to buy fish from there.
There are also a number of businesses like Bhairab Fish & Company, which offer fresh fish from these areas and villages at varying prices. Most of these businesses have become very popular through social media.

Straight from the cow
004Asma Akter of Paikpara of the city, a mother of three children, avoids branded liquid milk. She gets milk from a dairy farm located at Kalyanpur. The price of the milk the farm produces is comparatively high at around Tk 70 per litre when the average price of packaged liquid milk in the stores are Tk 55 per litre .
She tells New Age Xtra, ‘I prefer collecting milk directly from the source to ensure quality drink for my children.’
Asma shares that she can rely on the farm. Like Asma, Ariffullah Mamun of Kalyanpur area, shares, ‘From where I get milk in my area, the cow is milked in front of the customers, to avoid any doubt that water is being added to it or other chemicals are being added.’
Earlier, both Asma and Mamun used to collect liquid milk manufactured by some well-marketed brands. But they stopped consuming the brands after a series of news reports revealed adulteration by the brands despite their advertisements assuring quality milk.
Mahbub Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury, a dairy farm owner at the Kalyanpur area, shares with New Age Xtra that for the last couple of years, the number of customers along with the demand of milk has been increasing. Chowdhury owns 12 cows that produce 120 to 150 litres of milk daily at the farm.
‘Despite high price, the demand is also high. I cannot save a single litre of milk for my own family,’ Chowdhury says.

From village orchards
005Fruit adulteration is more widespread and more feared by the masses than any other food item in Bangladesh now. Hence, an increasing number of people are no longer having fruits or they are depending on fruits from villages.
During in the summer season, when fruit traders offer juicy and mouthwatering fruits at high price in the fruit markets, some of the conscious fruit eaters look for fresh and unadulterated fruits from the grassroots level even if they have to pay more for this. In this case, they have to rely on their acquaintances who own orchards.
Lahul Galib, a Dhaka University student and part-time fruit trader, supplies fresh litchi from Dinajpur, the district famous for summer time fruits. This year, along with his friends, he initiated an online-based venture of litchi trading for the city customers that he is calling ‘Litchi Heaven’. Customer can post order for litchi and these will be delivered to their homes.
Galib shares with New Age Xtra that currently his venture supplies China 3, Bedana and Madrassi litchi, cultivated in Dinajpur, his hometown. ‘The source price of litchi we offer varies from Tk 600 to 650. But we charge Tk 100 more as transport cost. We sell the fruits directly from the source and do not store them in Dhaka.’
He adds, ‘The city people can find the similarly named litchi in the markets, but they can easily distinguish the differences between the two varieties. Litchis available in the market are mostly adulterated with preservatives before they are put on display in the shops.’
Aslam Beg Sayem of Moghbazar area, who has collected litchi from Dinajpur recently, shares with New Age Xtra, ‘The taste is really different.’
Golam Murtaza Sohag, a customer of Litchi Heaven, also shares, ‘Always, I collect fruits directly from local sources.’ ‘I have a child and I should not provide him adulterated foods,’ he adds.

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