BANGLADESH: Banana boon for farmers

The organic banana orchards of Bandarban are every farmer’s dreams. They yield well and churn good profits. Not to mention, these highly nutritious fruits are sweet, delectable and loved by children and adults alike.

Growers in all seven upazilas on the hilly terrain cultivate different species of bananas, starting from the locally famous ‘Bangla kola’ to other species like Champa, Anaji, Sagar and Surjyamukhi.

The produce of this region is high in demand as harmful chemicals are not used to ripen or preserve the fruits. They are naturally high in nutrients like vitamin B, soluble fibres, and moderate amounts of vitamin C, manganese and potassium.

Rempu Mro, a farmer of remote Chimbuk area, said, “There is no need to add preservatives, as there is no stockpile of the fruit for the high demand.”

Shah Alam, a wholesaler at Bandarban Bazar, said, “The health conscious people of Dhaka and Chittagong understand the value of these organic fruits and hence, there is high demand from there.”

“The production cost is low and farmers can get fair prices for their produce,” he added.

The fruits develop in large hanging clusters, that growers sell to wholesalers directly from the orchards. Ideally, wholesalers make such purchases twice a week, as yield and demand are both high.

Wholesalers buy each cluster for Tk 30 (USD 0.36) to Tk 40 (USD 0.48) and sell the same for Tk 60 (USD 0.71) to Tk 80 (USD 0.95), depending on the size. The perishable bananas are cut a day or two prior to ripening and then put into crates at the orchards and directly transported to Bandarban town, Dhaka or Chittagong in different trucks.

Bananas are cultivated throughout the year, unaffected by the seasons. So, farmers in the district have a steady source of income.

Palash Paul from Chittagong, a tourist at Shailo Propath that is 5km from the district town, said the panoramic views of the banana orchards are a sight to behold. “One can even visit the orchards and buy bananas that ripen on the branches, that are are so sweet.”

According to Bandarban’s Department of Agricultural Extension, the district produced at least 197,750 tonnes of bananas on 7,910 hectares last year. Farmers have grown 202,500 tonnes on 8,100 hectares this year.

Production has already crossed the target for this year, that has encouraged banana growers a lot, added DAE officials.

The department’s Deputy Director Altaf Hossain said, “We are trying to encourage the indigenous farmers to adopt modern methods of farming instead of traditional methods to maintain the quality of produce.”

“The water, soil and environment of the district are suitable for cultivating bananas.”

But farmers need to be trained to understand the importance of slope farming and tree spacing, choose high quality seeds, and use high-quality organic fertilisers, added Altaf.

Best farming practices also need to be adopted; for instance, wooden sticks need to be dug into the ground next to the tree to give it support, he said.

After the tree bears fruit, it usually develops tree saplings; all but two have to cut down and removed to maintain quality, added the deputy director.

Written by Sanjoy Kumar Barua
Source: The Daily Star

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