Barobari Bazar—a century-old market hub—spans approximately one and a half kilometers in Lalmonirhat district in Bangladesh. This market is important in the region as it supplies a diverse range of daily necessities.  Its growing popularity is attributed to its size, customer satisfaction, and impressive customer retention capacity. Farmers particularly rely on the Barobari Bazar for essential agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers.

Within the bazar, small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) have ensured a consistent and a continuous supply of zinc rice seed. Currently, there are 19 retailers, marking a 46 percent increase from 2019, who trade zinc rice seed at their shops in Barobari Bazar. Additionally, there are over 23 small and medium zinc rice seed enterprises representing 43 percent increase from 2019, dedicated to the production of zinc rice seeds in the same market, resulting in increased incomes for the retailers.

In 2023, these enterprises collectively produced 700 metric tons (MT) of biofortified zinc rice seed of the BRRI dhan74, BRRI dhan84, Bangabandhu dhan100, BRRI dhan102, and BRRI dhan72 variety. This production volume represents more than twofold increase compared to the 2019 yield.

There are at least five zinc rice brands seeds available in each retail store in Barobari Bazar. The zinc rice supply chain actors are visible in Barobari Bazar. Several seed companies in Barobari Bazar are engaged in seed production, processing, and marketing. Md. Rabiul Islam, a seed entrepreneur, spoke about his transition from traditional seed production to zinc rice seed after attending a value chain actors meeting hosted by HarvestPlus and its partner Notun Jibon Rochi (NAZIR) in Lalmonirhat in 2017. Initially starting with two metric tons of seed, he progressively increased production to 100 metric tons in 2022 and further expanded to 300 metric tons in 2023.

HarvestPlus and implementing partners introducing zinc rice in the northern part of Bangladesh in 2014. However, continuous awareness raising among farmers, seed companies, food producers, processors, aggregators, retailers, and consumers through various types of activities has been an integral part of the overall approach. HarvestPlus has been instrumental in distributing zinc rice seeds to farmers, establishing demonstration plots, conducting farmer training for skill development on zinc rice production, and creating awareness about the benefits of zinc rice.

Zinc rice is becoming popular in Lalmonirhat owing to its competitiveness in terms of agronomic characteristics and consumer-preferred traits. Farmers are even traveling long distances to visit Barobari Bazar for zinc rice seeds. Md. Shafiqul Islam is a farmer who traveled 50 kilometers from another district to purchase zinc rice seeds after seeing the success of his neighboring zinc rice farmers. He stated, ” I lost my harvest last season but my neighbor with Bangabandhu dhan100 did not. Rather he had a good harvest. That is why I plan to grow zinc rice Bangabandhu dhan100, this year. I also noticed that Bangabandhu dhan100 is a zinc rice and contains zinc, which is a necessary micronutrient for the health of my family.”

Government projects and programs have recognized and promoted zinc rice in Lalmonirhat district, significantly reducing malnutrition among the population.  Zinc rice varieties BRRI dhan74, BRRI dhan84, and Bangabandhu dhan100 covered 14 percent of the total area in Lalmonirhat district during the 2022-2023 season.

The concerted efforts in Barobari Bazar have significantly increased the supply of zinc rice seed, contributing to a reduction in the country’s zinc deficiency.