Like every year, ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, villagers of Sonakhuli Sarkarpara in Saidpur upazila have become busy again.
Almost all of them are now engaged in making bamboo wicker baskets (locally known as tukri) to be delivered to vermicelli and lachchha semai factories in and around Nilphamari.
The factories will use the wicker baskets as packaging containers for the delicately crispy vermicelli and lachchha semai, high in demand during the Ramadan and on the Eid day.
Akhtar Siddiquee Pappu, president of Vermicelli and Lachchha Semai Producers Association in Nilphamari, said, “Fasting devotees during Ramadan like to have vermicelli or lachchha semai for their iftar [breaking of fast]. Many like the items on the day of Eid too.”
Catering to that demand, at least 80 to 90 factories, some authorised and some not authorised, produce several hundred tonnes of the food items in Ramadan, he said. “Because the item is crispy, we need a specific type of light basket made of bamboo. And the artisans at Sonakhuli Sarkarpara fulfil that exact requirement every year.”
During a visiting to the village of five thousand residents recently, this correspondent found people of all ages weaving wicker baskets using bamboo strips and small knives.
Nur Ali, a senior citizen of the village, said, “One might think it’s trivial work. But in fact, the craft is a blessing for us, because the profit in it is many times higher than that in agriculture or other businesses.”
Explaining the advantages of the craft, another elderly villager Jabedul Islam said, “It’s a type of cottage industry. After finishing up household chores, women can do it. Even children can join after school.”
At least 15 baskets can be made out of a matured bamboo stalk, costing Tk 150 and an astounding profit of Tk 375 is possible by selling each basket at a wholesale rate of Tk 35, the villagers said.
Rustom Ali, a wholesale wicker basket trader, said he sells bamboo baskets in different districts after purchasing around 6,000 to 8,000 baskets from Sonakhuli Sarkarpara daily.
The bamboo wicker baskets are very much in demand from February through June because those are also used for transporting different fruits and vegetables including mango, lychee or tomato, said Ali Hossain, a fruit vendor in Nilphamari town.