Green Grub

Mehrin Chowdhury looks into the options available for fresh and organic food in Dhaka

People these days are becoming more conscious about their health and what they eat. As a result there have been many efforts towards healthy consumption and the concept of organic farming seems to have become quite popular.
The idea can be rather complicated because organic produce do not appear to be different looking from the regular ones upfront. E.g. if someone goes to a supermarket and there’s the conventionally grown apple on one rack and the organic range on another, both the apples would look the same; firm, shiny and red. Both would provide the same amounts of vitamins and fiber and be free of fat, sodium and cholesterol. Which one should a consumer choose? The basic answer is that to make the right selection everyone must get the facts right before shopping. They need to know the real difference between conventional and organic produce.

Conventional Vs Organic Produce
Organic farming refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Farmers who grow organic produce don’t use conventional methods to fertilize and control weeds. Examples of organic farming practices include using natural fertilizers to feed soil and plants, and using crop rotation or mulch to manage weeds.
Conventional ways of growing crops include the use of synthetic pesticides, petroleum or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. These variants can be genetically modified (bioengineered), e.g. genetically modified mangoes that are not seasonal and produce all year through. Conventional livestock are given antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. which are strictly restricted when raising organic livestock.

Health Concerns
Experts claim that the production of conventional ways may cause cancer in long term consumption and may have many other negative effects especially on small children, the elderly and those with a weaker immune system.

The Scenario of Bangladesh in Organic Farming
Much has been said about the basic differences but what really matters to the Bangladeshi community is where we stand in this situation. Unsurprisingly the conscious citizens of Bangladesh are taking matters into their own hands and starting businesses that allow locals access to fresh, formalin-free produce.

In foreign countries there is a farmer’s market in most localities to allow the farmers to get closer to their consumers without the involvement of any middlemen. The concept is very attractive where consumers can directly go to the farm and pick out their groceries directly from the source. Since middlemen are not involved the farmer’s can show off their hard work and charge the consumers a reasonable rate not hiked by other involved parties.
Based on this concept Organo by Greenthumb recently introduced a farmer’s market in Gulshan 1. The market is also accompanied by an eatery which offers its own dishes, as well as dishes from Break Express and Yellow Submarine Cafe. Every Friday morning consumers get to handpick fresh, formalin-free vegetables from Organo by Greenthumb and formalin-free, freshly caught fish from Bhairab Fish and Co. The vegetables are sourced from outside Dhaka, where the produce is grown with the help of natural fertilizers and strict supervision.

FASAL (Fresh and Safe Agro Ltd)
Another venture by a health enthusiast is the little green shop in Banani that looks like any other corner shop in Dhaka. This little shop has chemical free fruits and vegetables produced by farmers and a technical team of experienced agriculturists. They provide fresh milk from cows reared in their own farm, organic commodities like rice, lentils etc. Fresh fish come in every morning at 7 a.m. and if you enter the small shop after 10 in the morning there is a high probability that all fish would be sold off by then.
Fasal also has outlets in Mirpur, Gabtoli, Darus Salam, Mohammadpur and Manik Mia Avenue.

There are many other online shops that claim to sell fresh and organic foods and have dedicated Facebook pages from where orders can be made and consumables will be delivered; few such examples are Direct Fresh, Fresh Express Bangladesh, Fresh Farm Ltd, Get You Fish Ltd, etc.