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Strawberry picked from the orchard raised by Jessore Golden Seed Farm at Haldharjot village in Panchagarh Sadar upazila. Photo: STAR
Inspired by Dr Manzur Hossain, Professor of Botany Department of Rajshahi University, the farm set a strawberry nursery at Haldharjot village on 2.7 acres of land in Omarkhana union under Panchagarh Sadar upazila and started planting saplings on July10 last year.
The farm that formally opened commercial marketing of the juicy red fruit yesterday, earlier signed agreement with Agora and Nondon in Dhaka to supply strawberry at Tk 650 per kg. The two mega shops sell the fruit at Tk 850 per kg.
Strawberry, which is usually eaten raw as fruit, is also used in preparing ice cream, jam, jelly, chocolate, biscuit and other foods.
“In the current season 1.5 tonnes of strawberry may be produced on one bigha of land. The market price would be Tk 8/10 lakh. We hope that local farmers will collect saplings from the nursery within a short time,” Hafizur Rahaman, director of Jessore Golden Seed, said at a function on the nursery premises yesterday.
Thakurgaon Additional Deputy Commissioner Monzur Hasan Bhuiyan attended the function as chief guest and Professor Dr Manzur Hossain of Rajshahi University Botany Department as special guest.
“The nursery has been set up here to spread strawberry cultivation among the farmers. The weather of the district is favourable for its cultivation as the winter stays here longer than many other areas of the country,” Dr Manzur Hossain said at the function.
“Strawberry usually grows in the countries where winter prevails for long period. Through tissue culture, we developed the varieties that can be grown in our climate,” he said.
For better yield, strawberry is to be planted in November and December.
The plants start flowering within one month of plantation and fruits starts ripening after 45 days. The fruiting continues up to four months.
Each plant bears around 250 to 300 grams of fruits and some 6,000 plants can be grown on a bigha of land, Dr Monjur said.
Locally produced strawberry bears a bright prospect for export to different countries including Europe where strawberry is not grown in winter, he said.
Published On: 2009-01-14
View of a strawberry garden in Rajshahi. Photo: STAR
The Quantum Foundation authorities in Rajshahi bought over 1,000 strawberry plants for Tk 20,000 a month ago. They spent a further Tk 13,000 cultivating a fallow eight decimal pieces of land in Shitlai Kazipur area. They are now waiting to cash nearly Tk 2 lakh, six times the amount they invested, by selling 250kg of the lip-smacking fruit, in just 10 days.
“Strawberry cultivation is relatively new in the country, but it is not difficult. It spins money,” said Muzahidul Islam Zahid, an official of the foundation.
“For the first time I have cultivated the fruit.”
Major Hafizur Rahman Mollah, deputy inspector general of prisons for the Rajshahi division, cultivated some 2,500 strawberry plants at the Rajshahi Central Jail property, six months ago.
The jail authorities have spent over Tk 50,000 on the cultivation and now sell 1,000 saplings for Tk 70,000. Also, they are set to sell around 600kg of the fruit at an expected Tk 4.20 lakh.
“Attracted by the economic viability of the fruit, I made necessary arrangements on the jail premises, so that jail inmates can learn the tricks of the trade and adopt them later in their lives,” Major Hafiz told The Daily Star.
M Shahidullah, a local agent of Holcim Ltd, has also cultivated strawberries recently. Strawberries are also being farmed by at least 25 other individuals in Rajshahi — for the first time this season.
By cultivating 1.5 tonnes of strawberries on a leased plot at Rajshahi University, botany teacher Dr M Manzur Hossain is expected to sell 10 tonnes of strawberries, worth around Tk 70 lakh, by March.
Strawberry farming is already in motion in 30 districts in the country. With the average price of a kilogram of the fruit 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, according to pioneers in the field.
Originating in the US, the crop is usually grown in Europe and Australia. It gained popularity in parts of Japan and tropical India. Each year, a global production of about 30 lakh tonnes of strawberries on two lakh hectares of land was recorded in the FAOSTAT Database.
The country has demand for 50 tonnes of strawberries per season, which local traders import from different countries including the US, Thailand and Australia. Strawberries are usually eaten raw or used in preparing ice creams, jams, jellies, pickles, chocolates, biscuits, cakes and milk shakes.
The strawberry, a nutritious and delicious foreign fruit, is now adapted to the Bangladeshi climate. It was registered with the National Seed Board recently, following its successful experimental cultivation at Rajshahi and the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute in Joydevpur, said Dr Shafikul Islam, senior scientific officer of Rajshahi Fruit Research Centre.
The government experiments started in 2006 and three years later, Manzur developed several new varieties adapted to the local climate. Another horticulturist, Quamruzzaman of Natore, experimented with the fruits’ field results and successfully took it to market.
Many visitors from different parts of the country are now thronging to their strawberry fields. Over 150 people from 30 districts started cultivating the fruit. The Bangladesh Strawberry Association (BAS) was formed with Manzur as its chairman, to fuel the growth of the cultivation.
Strawberry cultivation was successful in the hilly Matiranga Army Zone in Cox’s Bazar last year. This year, many fresh initiatives were taken to develop the trade in Panchagarh, Dinajpur, Tangail, Rangpur, Kurigram, Mymensingh, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Jessore, Magura, Faridpur, Madaripur and many areas around Dhaka.
In the early 1990s, Dr Manzur was in Japan, pursuing his PhD, when Quamruzzaman joined him in a one-year training session. They together planned the cultivation of the fruit in the country.
Returning home in 1996, Manzur brought along eight varieties of saplings and Quamruzzaman collected six varieties from Japan and America. But none of them sustained.
A breakthrough occurred when Manzur developed some new varieties through tissue cultures at his Botany department’s Plant Breeding and Gene Engineering Laboratory, while Quamruzzaman did the same in Natore.
In 2003, after five years of research, three varieties yielded encouraging results. Out of the three, the ‘RU-3’ and ‘Modern-3’ variety proved to be very impressive in all aspects of size, taste, and flavour, with each fruit weighing from 20 to 25 grams. At present, the methods are now more developed, following successful cultivation over the last five years.
Strawberry cultivation is no difficult from growing potatoes or brinjals. Saplings are sown into prepared beds of matted rows in November and December. Pioneers also inform that organic fertiliser is best for the fruit.
Strawberry plants begin to flower within a month of plantation and fruits can be collected till March. Saplings can be collected from nurseries run by Dr Manzur and Quamruzzaman in Natore. Different NGOs are also producing strawberry saplings.
Each plant bears around 250 to 300 grams of fruits and some 6000 plants can be grown on a bigha of land, they say. A farmer can spend Tk 20,000 to yield 2000 kg fruit on a bigha of land. “Even if strawberries sell at Tk 100 a kg, a farmer can easily earn Tk 2 lakh,” said Manzur.
“I experimented at first by selling 35 kg of strawberries at Tk 300 a kg in 2006. In 2007, he sold 87 kg at Tk 550 per kg, gradually increasing the business in this manner,” Manzur said. This year he expects 1.5 tonnes of strawberries from some 6000 plants.
With great export potential, the sweet and attractive fruit will open new horizons for farmers, he told The Daily Star.
Local fruit importers and foreigners, who visited Manzur’s strawberry field, comment that the produce was better in size, colour and taste than those found in many other countries.
Quamruzzaman hopes some 8,000 strawberry plants in his nursery will yield more than two tonnes of produce. He even sold good quality strawberries at Tk 2,000 per kg in Dhaka last year.
“I recently planted two new varieties from America Camarosa and Festival. Each fruit of the export quality varieties would weigh about 50 grams,” he says. Other strawberry varieties usually weigh around 25 grams.
However, strawberry cultivation is still lacking government initiatives, which resists expansion, although the trade was registered in the country last year.
“The fruit will no doubt be a profitable crop for farmers. 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,” said Manzur.
“Once it is popularised, the fruit can play a role in alleviating poverty and help overcome problems associated with malnourishment,” said Quamruzzaman.
Strawberry eyes Tk 10cr a year
A woman works at a strawberry field in Rajshahi. Growers and traders of the fruit are expecting a Tk10 crore annual turnover, as they launch its commercial cultivation this year. Photo: STAR
Strawberry growers and traders in Bangladesh are expecting Tk 10 crore in annual turnover, as they go into its first-ever commercial cultivation this year.
Rajshahi University teacher Dr Manzur Hossain, who developed the fruit nearly a decade ago, expects nearly 25 tonnes of output from about 8.5 acres of land in 45 districts until April.
Growers claim the cultivation of this money-spinning, nutritious, delicious foreign fruit will spin nearly Tk 10 crore worth of trade a year.
“The initial commercial production will meet 50 percent of the gross annual demand for the fruit. At present, the demand for the fruit stands at 50 tonnes,” said Hossain, also the general secretary of Bangladesh Strawberry Farmers Association, which monitors the fruit’s cultivation in the country.
Production will continue to increase significantly from next year, as the growers taste success, he said.
Meanwhile, horticulturist Quamruzzaman in Natore has successfully grown two American varieties of strawberry this year, a major breakthrough in its cultivation. The variety is of optimal weight, better taste and colour.
Each strawberry nearly weighs 75 grams, three times higher than the usual 25 grams. The new varieties are becoming popular, especially among buyers, said Quamruzzaman.
“I have been experimenting on the export quality camarosa and festival varieties for the last few years. This year, it proved to be a success,” he said, adding that each plant bears some 15 fruits with an average weight of 750 grams.
Many young businessmen have taken the fruit to urban markets in Dhaka, cashing in on lofty sales.
Although growers get between Tk 500 and Tk 750 per kilogram, the fruit is sold for Tk 850 to Tk 1300 per kilogram, said people familiar with the matter.
As the fruit gains popularity and cultivation increases, the price will come down, said traders.
“The strawberry trade is quite lucrative as it provides employment opportunities for many,” said ASM Mizanur Rahman, who intends to take a tonne of the fruit to Dhaka from Rajshahi.
“So far, I sold 250 kilograms of the fruit. I also employed several youths to give me a hand at marketing the strawberries. The fruit is receiving good responses in markets,” said Rahman, a private jobholder in Dhaka.
Many are currently involved in collecting strawberries at Tk 650 from the farmers and selling at an average Tk 850 per kilogram.
Dr Hossain of Rajshahi University, who recently travelled to many districts to study the cultivation of the fruit, said it is gaining popularity at a good pace. It is growing best in Dinajpur, Panchagarh, Mymensingh, Kushtia, Jessore, Khulna, Dhaka and Chittagong.
He said each strawberry plant bears around 250 to 300 grams of fruit and some 6,000 plants can be grown on one bigha of land. A farmer can easily do business worth Tk 6 lakh, by a yield of 2,000 kilograms of fruit on a bigha of land at an expense of Tk 20,000.
“Even if strawberries sell at Tk 100 per kilogram, a farmer can earn Tk 2,00,000,” said Hossain.
M Shamim Ali cultivated strawberry on a small piece of land at Yousufpur, Charghat. He hopes to sell nearly 150 kilograms this season.
“I spent only Tk 9,000 on cultivation and I fetched profits of Tk 1,00,000. I sell 3 kilograms of strawberry per day. I will cultivate it on a bigha next year,” he said.
Sector people said the country meets its current demand of 50 tonnes of strawberries via imports from different countries, including the USA, Thailand and Australia.
Strawberries are eaten as it is and used in preparing ice-cream, jam, jelly, pickles, chocolates, biscuits, cake and milk shakes.
Growers urged the government to take immediate steps to support the export of the fruit. With a great export potential, the sweet and attractive fruit will open a new horizon for farmers, if it gets government patronisation, they said.