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Sylhet farmers hopeful about ‘Zara Lemon’ farming

A piece of lemon sold at Tk 800
Rezaul Haque . Sylhet
25 Nov 2022 00:00:00 | Update: 25 Nov 2022 02:36:32
Sylhet farmers hopeful about ‘Zara Lemon’ farming
Zara Lemon is cultivated in moist and high lands and requires large amounts of rainfall– Rezaul Haque

Zara Lemon—a special kind of lemon grown by farmers in Sylhet appears to be a profitable fruit in terms of business prospect, as it has a fair demand in foreign countries, and can easily be exported after meeting the local demand.

Four pieces of lemon, although it may seem unbelievable, is selling for Tk 3,000 in Sylhet.

But this is not a common lemon. This special lemon, called Zara lemon, looks like a big size papaya. The lemon is cultivated only in Sylhet in the country and in some parts of Assam and Meghalaya of India.

This fruit, which is very popular in Sylhet, is also exported. The lemon, weighing 1-2 kg or more, has a huge demand throughout the year. The price is sky high.

During a recent visit at Bandar Bazar area in ​​Sylhet city, this correspondent found that two pairs of this special variety of lemon were selling for Tk 3,000 which means a single piece of the fruit costs Tk 800. Zara lemon is mostly cultivated in Jaintapur upazila of the district.

What is Zara

Zara also known as Shatkora is a citrus fruit. This lemon is cultivated in moist and high lands and requires large amounts of rainfall.

The citrus research centre at Jaintapur in Sylhet under the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute conducts research with the fruit for a long time and has already invented its new variety.

Borhan Uddin Bhuiyan, an official of Citrus research centre, said it is a unique fruit of citrus species which never matches with any other species. Other two early varieties of citrus fruits are orange and grape fruit. Many other varieties were created later with the natural hybrid of these three varieties.

Borhan said the smell and test of Zara is exclusive. It has many varieties including most popular gol zara, guti zara and pani zara. Mainly guti and pani zara is cultivated in Sylhet.

He said, “The peels of zara lemon have a special sweet taste. It also has different smell and favourite of food lovers due to its taste and smell.”

People eat peels of this fruit both raw and after cooking, he said.

A chef from Sylhet, Selina Chowdhury said, “The taste of zara lemon juice is sour but the peel is sweet. Its juice and peels can be used in preparing various foods including fish curry and pickles. The peel is also eaten as salad without cooking.”

Where cultivated

Zara lemon is mostly cultivated in hilly areas of Jaintapur, Gowainghat, Kanaighat, Golapganj and Beanibazar upazilas of Sylhet.

Sources from Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Sylhet said, there are about 150 orchards of zara lemon in the district, including 60 orchards in Jaintupur upazila alone.

Md Salauddin, deputy director of DAE in Sylhet, said, “Zara lemon cultivation is very profitable. Its buyers are mainly expatriate Bangladeshis. A large number of people from Sylhet live in Europe and America who buy these lemons.”

“The demand for this lemon is also increasing in other parts of the country as well,” he said, adding that, as a result, farmers can make a good profit easily by cultivating it.

“Farmers get plenty of fruits within one and half year after planting the seeds and one tree gives fruits for several years,” he added.

Many people cultivate zara on the rooftop garden now-a-days. Saiful Islam, a farmer from Bagerkhal village in Fatehpur union, said, “I cultivate zara lemons on 50 decimals of land. The fruits are generally harvested during the monsoon.”

“Last year I sold zara lemon worth more than Tk1 lakh. I didn’t even take them to the markets. Traders came and collected the fruits from the orchard,” he added.

Khairul Islam, another farmer in the area, said, “A mature tree can produce more than 1,000 lemons but the yield reduces significantly if the rainfall is low.”

Price of zara lemon

Prices of zara lemon vary depending on the size. In recent season each of a large sized lemon was sold at Tk 800 in Bandarbazar in the Sylhet city while small ones were sold for Tk 400-500.

Jahangir Alam, a buyer in Bandarbazar said that during the monsoon, four pieces of zara lemon is sold at Tk 600 to Tk 1000. As it is not the lemon season at present the price is high”, he said.

Zara lemon comes from different orchards in Jaintapur, he said, adding that wholesalers bought them from orchards and sell them to retailers in Bandarbazar.

Export remains halted for 15 years

Various citrus fruits including zara lemon used to be exported from Sylhet to Europe and America which is halted for the last 15 years. The UK’s Department of Environmental Food Research Association banned the import of citrus fruits in 2007 due to ‘Canker’ virus infection. The ban is yet to be lifted.

Jalalabad Vegetable and Frozen Fish Exporters Association President Hizkil Gulzar said, “There is a large market in Europe and America for citrus fruits, including zara lemons. But we are losing the market due to the ban.”

“We have been requesting the government to set up a vegetable and fruit export zone in Sylhet, eradicate the problem of cankers and provide training to the farmers. But no measures have been taken yet.” he said.

A large amount of foreign exchange could be earned annually, if citrus fruits get rid of canker infection, he said. Many people personally sent the fruit to their relatives living abroad, he added.

Scientific officer Borhan Uddin said, “Unplanned farming, planting trees without maintaining certain distances, lack of cleanliness and not using prescribed medicine can cause canker virus infection.”

“We have trained farmers to keep their gardens free of canker. Most of the gardens in Sylhet are free of this virus,” he noted.