Madaripur, Jan 4 (UNB)- The heritage industry of date molasses and “Batali” production in Madaripur is losing its past glory due to lack of marketing facilities, shortage of firewood and depletion of date plants.
The production of date molasses and “Batali” - a date-based confection - in the district used to be so rich and widespread in quality and taste in the past that it used to be mentioned in geography books.
Thousands of maunds of date molasses and ‘Batali’ were produced in the district every year and sent to other parts of the country from different markets of the district every day.
‘Batali gur’ of natural brown colour and chemically whitened were produced all over the district. Buyers from different parts of the country would flock to the district to buy ‘Batali’ and molasses packed in earthen jars of different sizes.
The sweet flavour of ‘Nalen Batali’ and ‘Nalen Gur’ made of newly-extracted date juice brought people in droves to have a taste of these traditional items.
But there has been a drastic fall in production of date molasses and ‘Batali’ in Madaripur in recent years.
‘Batali’ and date molasses have gone beyond the purchasing capacity of the poor and common people. A small jar of raw date juice containing 8 to 10 glasses of juice sells at Taka 80 to 100.
One kilogram of ‘Batali’ sells at Taka 130 to Taka 150 in the retail market. A small jar of date molasses sells at Taka 400 to Taka 500.
But nowadays, it has lost its past glory due to depletion of the trees that are now used for fuel and construction of houses in the district. Meanwhile facilities for marketing the products and preservation them beyond winter season are totally absent.
Alamgir Kazi, 40, a Gachi (who collects the date juice) said scarcity of firewood for boiling date juice is another problem that has led to the depletion of date trees in the district.
Mamun Howlader, Daber Kha, Habu Munshi, Habib Bepari and Rajib Das, local businessmen of Madaripur Town said Mostafapur Bazar, Takerhat Bazar, Rajoir Bazar, Kalkini Bazar, Shibchar Bazar and Charmuguria Bazar are the main markets of date molasses and ‘Batali’. The government initiative can save this once-profitable sector, they added.
The proper incentives and patronization might help the extractors to increase production of molasses. At the same time indiscriminate use of date trees should be stopped and date trees should be planted in large scale. The date molasses may be turned into an exportable item through application of modern technology, they further said.
The peak time for collecting juice from date trees is from November to March. The extractors are locally known as ‘Gachhi’.
The juice is matured in November or early December. But this year hundreds of date trees were lying unpicked.
According to the owners of the date trees, Gacchis are now unavailable and if available they are said to be very reluctant to take on the job.
This was confirmed by some Gacchis - Abdus Salam Mia, Abdul Aziz Howladar and Kamal Uddin Mia, of different areas in Madaripur - who told this correspondent that the seasonal job was profitable once, but now it is a losing concern.
They also added that unruly local youths often steal the juice pots at night.