Commercial farming of strawberries has been gaining popularity in northern region, including the vast Barind tract for its economic prospects.
According to local sources, farming of the high-value cash crop has increased on two hectares of land more this year compared to the previous year only in Rajshahi district.
The fruit has been cultivated on 12.6 hectares in Rajshahi, 3 hectares in Naogaon, 0.6 hectares in Natore and 27 hectares in Chapainawabganj this year.
The fruit has brought diversifications in both wholesale and retail fruit markets as its farming has been gaining popularity in the region.
Mozder Hossain, Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) said that the interest of the farmers is gradually increasing as there are suitable production and marketing systems in this field.
Farmers’ level extension of strawberry farming has started bringing a new horizon in the field of agriculture and economic sectors in the region.
Many people including youths have made their fortunes through strawberry farming as its commercial farming is more profitable than many other seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Strawberry, a succulent fruit popular in different parts of the globe, is being sold in retail markets at Tk 500 to 600 per kilogram on average at present. It has gradually been becoming popular among both farmers and consumers in general.
Professor Dr Manzur Hossain, who is a pioneer in the country’s strawberry research, variety innovation and growers’ level farming expansion, said Bangladeshi strawberry variety has been adjudged as the world’s best strawberry.
Strawberry cultivation is as easy as growing potatoes or eggplant. Saplings can be planted in rows during the period between November and December every year.
Farming of the juicy fruit has already begun in many districts in the region, he said.
The fruit will no doubt be a profitable crop for farmers, Professor Hossain, a senior teacher in the Department of Botany at Rajshahi University said, adding “If it is grown on a large scale, the highly nutritious fruit will come within the reach of the common people. There will be no need for imports”.
With the average price of a kilogram of Strawberry standing at Tk 700, the commercially viable fruit presents great export potentials and ushers in economic prospects for those who wish to get high and fast returns from limited land resources, he added.
Prof Hossain said they have innovated three varieties of strawberry through applying tissue culture methods.
All the varieties are being cultivated massively as those were found adaptive to the region’s soil and environmental conditions, he added.
Tazimul Haque, 54, a farmer of Baroipara village under Paba upazila, who has been cultivating the cash crop for more than 12 years, said there is a bright prospect of strawberry farming everywhere in the region.
The red juicy and nutritious fruit are now being supplied to markets in the capital, he said, adding strawberry cultivation is easier than potatoes or eggplant. Each plant bears around 250 to 300 grams of fruit and some 6,000 plants can be grown on one bigha of land.
Saplings can be planted in rows between November and December every year, he said.
Bakkar Ali, a farmer of Parila village under Paba upazila in the district, said a large number of people, mostly unemployed youths, have become dependent on strawberry farming to earn a living as its cultivation is easier and more profitable than other crops.
The youths are supplying strawberries to different markets across the country as the fruit is being used in preparing ice-cream, jams, jellies, pickles, chocolates and biscuits.
Illustrating the salient feature of strawberry, a high-valued cash crop, he said the plants start flowering within one month of plantation and fruits can be collected till March.
Due attention should be given to motivate the farmers so that they could be encouraged towards farming the cash crop commercially as it has high economic importance, he continued.