Burmese pickle?

Plenty of tourists are going to visit Cox’s Bazar during the Eid holidays. For their benefit, Ahmed Shatil Alam investigates the origins of most Burmese pickles sold in the stores of Cox’s Bazar

017A number of things come to mind when the name ‘Cox’s Bazaar’ is pronounced before us. We associate a number of things with the South-eastern district, also the tourist capital of the country. These include, Dry Fish, souvenir items made of sea animals, Burmese pickle and other items.
Burmese pickles are usually on the top of the priority list for tourists due to their incredible taste and variety. In fact, the original ‘Burmese market’ in Cox’s Bazar was named after then-Burma (Myanmar) where beauty products, souvenir etc are still found besides pickles.
To the nation’s credit, Bangladesh has a great varieties of pickles. But the pickle items from Burma have gained a spectacular popularity among the tourists since it was first imported from the neighboring country around the 80s.
These pickles are made from different fruits including jujube, mango and tamarind. The products have been coming to Bangladesh under an official agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
But during recent days, a number of incidents have shed light on the detail that a certain section of unscrupulous local businessmen are making and selling local goods in the name of Burmese products.
018According to the news reports and local pickle businessmen, recently a district mobile court visited a fake pickle factory and fined them Tk 15,000. During the visit, the mobile court also found several thousand packets of locally-made pickle and thousands of labels and packets of Burmese pickles.
The mobile court could not find the factory owner Nazim Uddin as he has remained absconding till this report was filed. During the visit, some machineries and tools were also found by which the factory made local pickles and then packaged them as Burmese products.
While talking to New Age Xtra, several pickle businessmen in Cox’s Bazaar admitted that they sell such local products in the name of Burmese products as they make more profit from such products. ‘Almost every pickle businessmen in Cox’s Bazaar are involved in this illegal business as it helps them to earn more profit,’ says Rahul Dey, a pickle businessmen in Cox’s Bazaar, who has been in such business for eight years.
He explains that by selling a packet of real Burmese pickle from jujube at Taka 80-90 to customers, they can make profit of Tk five. ‘A locally made pickle wrapped with Burmese labels fetch Tk 40-50, but the profit margin is higher in such case,’ he says.
Another businessmen, who wants to keep his name a secret, shares that businessmen sell ten percent of fake Burmese pickle among the total products. During a recent visit to his shop at Labony Point, New Age Xtra found many local products, which were packaged with Burmese product labels and packets.
‘This is a tourists spot and people from different classes come here and buy products. Some of them also want cheap products. That is when we offer them the locally-made products as they cannot afford the real Burmese products,’ he says.
He shares that most of the businessmen inform the customers about the matter before buying pickles. But New Age Xtra did not find any basis to the claim following several visits to different such shops in Cox’s Bazar.
While talking to New Age Xtra, Chowdhury Asifuzzaman, a Dhaka-based private organisation employee who often visits the area, alleges that the pickle sellers never tell them about the actual origin of the pickles before the purchase.
‘I buy pickles when I visit Cox’s Bazar. Last time I was there in 2014, I found a number of fake packets among the bunch of pickles I had bought then,’ he says. He points out that although three packets looked the same, two of them tasted different from the remaining packet.
Requesting anonymity, a member of Cox’s Bazaar Chamber of Commerce and Industry admits the matter with New Age Xtra, He informs that recently a number of pickle factories were set up in Cox’s Bazar city for the purpose. ‘Earlier, the fake items came from Chittagong,’ he says.
‘Most of the fake items came from Chittagong before but in recent days most of the items are produced in local areas like Char Para, Kutubdia Para, Bus Terminal, Somitee Para etc in Cox’s Bazaar city’ he shares.
He claims that the locally-made products are much better in quality and taste than the overseas items. Due to low demand for these, the businessmen are forced to sell the products by changing the labels, he claims.