Vol. 5 Num 537 Wed. November 30, 2005  
Star City

Bad days for flower traders at Shahbagh

The street-side flower traders at Shahbag are experiencing a decline in sales and demand as a result of cultural changes and rising prices.

They attributed the increased prices of flowers to low production, high prices of preservatives and regular collection of tolls by the police.

"Use of chemical fertilisers and deteriorating soil quality could be the causes of the low production that has led to the increase in price. A bunch of 100 roses that cost Tk 150 last year would now cost Tk 500," said Shaon, a trader.

"Moreover, our sales have declined as social and cultural programmes are not held as frequently as before," said Russel, another salesperson. The use of flowers in these programmes has also been decreasing, he observed.

The traders sell the flowers on the footpath at Shahbag from 6:00am to 12:00pm. The flowers are kept either at the traders' homes or in the closets behind the footpaths.

Suppliers bring truckloads of flowers to Dhaka from Jessore, Savar and other places every morning. Some flowers are imported from India and Thailand.

The traders could not specify how the suppliers had access to the imported flowers and whether these require any taxes. Asked if local flowers are exported to other countries or is there any potential, they expressed their ignorance.

The traders said some 20 types of flowers are available at Shahbagh. The local ones include rose, rajanigandha, gada, lotus, gladiolus and chandramallika. The imported ones are jarbera and orchid. Leaves such as debdaru, kamini and patabahar are used in making bouquet.

The average price of a local flower is between Tk 5 and 15 per piece whereas an imported flower costs Tk 20 to Tk 25. Roses are most suited to the local climate, according to a trader.

The traders have reasonable excuses for the rising prices. "The materials for making a flower basket that cost Tk 15 last year would now cost at least Tk 30," said Ripon, a salesperson.

He also added that the imported flowers need preservatives and could be stored for 15 days whereas the local flowers contain no preservatives and could be stored for three days with the water being changed regularly.

Biplob, a shop owner, pointed the high cost of preservatives that increased from Tk 40 to Tk 100 or more.

He said due to lack of preservatives, a huge volume of flowers are wasted every day.

However, farmers and gardeners buy the decayed flowers for making compost. Street children and lipstick companies also collect the unsold flower petals.

The traders alleged that they have to pay tolls to the police for using the footpath. "We pay Tk 60 a day to the police. This is another reason for the increased price," said another trader.

A number of the flower shops operate under the Shahbagh Bottola Chinnomul Ful Baboshayi Samitee, an association of the street-side flower traders, who pay a certain fee to the association. Other shops operate independently.

Most flower traders feel that it would be very convenient if they could have a permanent indoor market. "Perhaps it could prevent wastage of flowers," said Bonya, a shop owner.

When asked if the traders ever approached the government officials to set up an indoor market for flower traders, she replied: "We are illiterate people and do not know how to approach them. Even if we did, they would not listen to us."

Syed Mozaffar Hossain, an executive engineer of Dhaka City Corparation, said no decision has been taken to construct an indoor market for the Shahbag traders.

"An indoor market would definitely be convenient for us but it would not increase the demand for flowers," said Ripon.

Flower sellers along the footpaths of Shahbagh wait for customers.. PHOTO: STAR