Covid-19 Fallout: Fallout distress boat builders sales in Atrai

In this recent photo, boats are displayed by vendors at the Shamspara boat market in Atrai upazila de Naogaon. Photo: Collected

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In this recent photo, boats are displayed by vendors at the Shamspara boat market in Atrai upazila de Naogaon. Photo: Collected

Artisans living off selling boats at Shamspara Boat Market, Atrai’s only upazila boat market in Naogaon, faced financial hardship due to declining market sales even during high season.

Boat builders wait the rest of the year for the monsoon season when the lowlands fill with water and demand for new boats increases in the area.

But since the coronavirus pandemic erupted last year, boat sales in the region’s largest boat market have continued to decline for two consecutive rainy seasons, many boat builders have said.

During the rainy season, the Shamspara boat market is open twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays.

Rivers, canals, and large and small wetlands, including Chalan Beel, are filled to the brim during the monsoon. This is when residents of different areas of Atrai and Raninagar upazilas in Naogaon as well as Natore upazila in Singra have to rely on boats to get around for their daily activities, the people said. residents.

Many others ride on boats to catch fish for a living or just for fun, they also said.

The area usually becomes festive during the monsoon with many boats on the waterways, said boat craftsman Abus Sobhan.

Monsoon is also the best time of year for several hundred boat builders in Atrai upazila, as that is when the boats they make are sold, he said, adding that ‘they also get a lot of repair work during the monsoon.

Locals said there were several thousand boat builders in different upazilas in Naogaon, where their livelihoods depend on selling and repairing boats.

On August 6, when this correspondent visited the market, nearly four hundred boats of different kinds were on display for sale. But only a handful of potential buyers have been spotted checking out the boats.

Abdul Latif, another craftsman who brought four boats to the market, said he makes a boat every rainy season and sells it at the market where people from surrounding neighborhoods even flock to buy boats. But market sales this season have been weak so far.

He works in agricultural fields at other times of the year, but he makes boats during the rainy season when agricultural labor is not available in the area, he added.

The pandemic is the main reason for the significant drop in boat sales during the peak season this year, said another boatbuilder, Abdul Mojid.

At a time when the prices offered by buyers are dropping and the prices of the main elements – wood and bamboo – are increasing, it is quite difficult to make much profit these days, he lamented, saying that according to the quality of wood, it costs between 3,500 and 4,000 Tk to make a boat 15 feet long.

Many local young people had secured seasonal jobs at the Shamspara Boat Market for pocket money, but without sufficient sales, vendors will no longer be able to employ them, boat builder Nagen Chandra said.


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