Home ›› 29 Jan 2022 ›› Nation

Coastal people cash in on Nipa Palm molasses

Al Mamun . Barishal
29 Jan 2022 00:00:00 | Update: 29 Jan 2022 10:20:56
Coastal people cash in on Nipa Palm molasses
Harvesters heating up the juice extracted from golpata plants to make molasses in Nilganj village of Kolapara upazila in Barishal– Al Mamun

Golpata or Nipa Palm, a natural blessing, which grows abundantly in the coastal areas of the country, has become a means for empowerment for the people of the coastal areas of Barishal.

For decades, this tree has strengthened the agricultural economy of the country, being inseparable from the lives of the people in the coastal areas with its many utilisations as roofs for shelters and fences, meeting different kinds of household needs, said ARM Saidullah, upazila agriculture officer of Kolapara.

However, the people of the natural calamity-prone areas of Barishal are becoming empowered by making molasses from its juice, which enables each grower and juice harvester to make a profit from Tk 1.5 lakh up to Tk 4 lakh in only four months, locals said. The nipa juice is collected during the Bangla months of Agrahayon, Poush, Magh, Falgun and Chaitra, Nayan Mistri, upazila forest officer of Taltoli (Amtoli range) said.

According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), over five lakh trees grow on over 10,000 hectares of saline land encompassing Barishal, Patuakhali, Barguna and Bhola. Over one lakh tonnes of molasses get produced in these areas each winter.

Golpata in Bangla means round leaves, but gol, a common tree in the coastal areas, is a distinct type of tree with leaves similar to coconut trees. It grows abundantly by the canals of the southern region of the country, and this crop thrives in saline water.

Nipa palms grow naturally, but many people here have made it their livelihood support. For their promising economic prospect, the harvesters often enclose the areas consisting of these trees with natural salty saline water locally to get the best output.

Farmers massage one branch of the tree by bending it. For seven to eight days, they do it. After that, they cut the mouth open, and juice starts dripping on the pot. They keep on cutting the mouth of the same branch for seven days.

“We just do not get juice and molasses from nipa palm. We make roofs of our houses with their leaves. We also make fences with the leaves,” said Habibur Rahman Akon, a farmer of Ghuhtabachha village of Nilganj.

“I used to sell fish fries locally and could not earn much before. However, now I leased a golpata orchard from my uncle and produced molasses from its juice with my wife,” Habibur said.

“We collect three pitchers of golpata juice from 70 trees in the orchard every day and make five kilogrammes of molasses. We sell a kg of molasses for Tk 80, and if everything goes well, we will make a profit of Tk 1 lakh this season,” he said.

Dilip Kumar Halder, a farmer of Nilganj village, told The Business Post that he has 300 trees in his orchard and produces molasses from them. “I sell each pitcher of juice for Tk 300 to Tk 400 and each kg of molasses for Tk 100 to Tk 150. I make Tk 2,000 each day from selling molasses and am expecting to earn Tk 3 lakh to Tk 4 lakh this season,” said Dilip.

He added that three to four kilogrammes of molasses can be made from one pitcher of golpata juice.

Monika Rani, a resident of Lotachapli village, said this business is more profitable than other crops, such as paddy cultivation. That is why more and more people are opting for golpata harvest.

She said: “I have cultivated paddy in 33 decimals of cropland. After six months of cultivation, my profits are less than the profit I made from golpata molasses in just four months. Not only that, we can sell the dried golpata branches, leaves for a good return after the harvest.”

Lal Chandra Roy, a resident of Taltoli upazila said they use their relatives residing in India to sell these molasses as this has great demand at the Indian market. “If the government would help us to create a distribution channel, we can export our products abroad, which can add to our export earnings,” he said.

Locals also requested some training programmes and cash incentives for the new entrepreneurs so that they can kick start their businesses.

Assistant Forest Conservator of Patuakhali Forest Department, Md Tarikul Islam, said they planted over one lakh golpata seeds in several coastal villages on an experimental basis last year. “We are planning to plant 50,000 golpata seeds in the locality considering its agro-economical and environmental prospects.

Nipa Palm (Golpata) is an indicator plant species of the Sundarbans biome, albeit it is neither a true littoral nor a high saline resistant species. Nipa can tolerate infrequent inundation, as long as the soil does not dry out, said Professor Mohammad Ali, chairman of Horticulture Department, Patuakhali Science and Technology University.