The Padma Bridge, which will connect the southwestern part of the country with the capital, will bring a revolutionary change in the agriculture sector in Khulna region as it would reduce transportation cost and save time, people concerned hope.
Farmers and traders currently have to face a lot of trouble to cross the River Padma by ferry, they said, adding that the problem will be no more once the bridge opens to traffic, making the transportation of agricultural products from Khulna to the capital easier.
Professor Anwarul Qadir, an economist, said, "Farmers in the Khulna region produce a lot of crops but they do not get adequate prices mainly because the transportation system with the capital is not good."
Once the Padma Bridge opens, marketing of agricultural products will be easier, which will benefit both the farmers and traders, he added.
One of the most important agricultural products of the region is shrimp, which is also exported to other countries after meeting the domestic demand.
Sheikh Abu Jafar, president of Khulna Shrimp Merchant Association, said, "There is a lot of demand for shrimp in the capital. But, it often takes two days to transport shrimp to the capital due to the traffic congestion at the ferry terminals on the Padma. As a result, ice melts and shrimps get infected by bacteria. Those shrimps cannot be sold."
He said the Padma Bridge would solve this problem "as the shrimps we send in the morning will reach the capital in the afternoon once the bridge opens".
Besides shrimp, about 145-160 tonnes of different species of fish are taken from Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat districts to the capital every day. The market price of these fishes is about Tk4 crore, according to the Khulna Department of Fisheries.
The opening of the Padma Bridge will ease the transportation of these fishes and save traders' time and money, said Md Tofazuddin Ahmed, deputy director of the Department of Fisheries, Khulna.
In addition, jute worth about Tk500 crore is exported every year from Khulna region via Mongla port. Traders also bring this crop from other regions to Khulna crossing the Padma.
Besides, many jute products produced in Khulna jute mills are also taken to the capital, said Sheikh Syed Ali, chairman of the Bangladesh Jute Association (BJA).
He said the government has already taken various steps to highlight Bangladeshi jute in the world market. The launch of the Padma Bridge will create more opportunities for the jute mills in Khulna, he said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Khulna, said about 600 tonnes of agricultural products are taken to the capital every day from Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat.
"Khulna is a transit point. All the agricultural products imported from India through Bhomra land port of Satkhira also come to Khulna first. Later it goes to other districts including Dhaka," said Hafizur Rahman, deputy director of Khulna DAE.
"Besides, Khulna region also produces a lot of agricultural products. Dumuria upazila alone produces agricultural products worth about Tk500 crore annually. A large part of these products is taken to the capital," he added.
The DAE also said Tk1,700 crore worth of watermelon was cultivated in 14,000 hectares of land in Khulna this year.
Hafizur Rahman said, "Around 70% of these watermelons are sold in different markets of the capital. But, many farmers did not get adequate prices this year because of a poor marketing system."
Once the Padma Bridge opens, the transportation of watermelon and other agricultural products will be easier and farmers will get fair prices, he hoped.