Dragon fruit cultivation gaining ground

People in Bangladesh once barely knew about dragon fruit, also called pitaya, but it is gradually making its way into the fields by winning the hearts of farmers all over the country through its immense popularity.

In fiscal 2020-21, farmers grew pitaya on 695 hectares of land to bag 8,660 tonnes of the fruit, which is more than double the total yield of 3,463 tonnes the previous year.

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Six years ago, Bangladesh produced only 66 tonnes of dragon fruit on 18 hectares of land, according to the Horticulture Wing of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).

Jhenaidah is the main dragon fruit producing hub as it accounts for 39 per cent of the total production while other districts, namely Jashore, Natore and Bandarban, have become major producers as well.

Seeing their success, more farmers in other regions are now trying to grow the fruit and Mustafa Zaman is one of them.

The resident of Kangkuni Para village under Baliatali union of Patuakhali’s Kalapara upazila planted 10 types of dragon fruit, including Singapore Pelora and Bari White, that are now selling for Tk 300 to Tk 400 per kilogramme (kg).

In addition to selling the fruit itself, he also gets an extra income by selling pitaya tree saplings and cuttings, earning him a total of around Tk 50,000 per month after expenses.

Zaman first started cultivating dragon fruit in 2012 by collecting indigenous seeds from Dhaka.

After seeing the yields were good, he started commercial cultivation in 2017 with 800 trees on an acre of land next to his house.

Zaman says he has been involved in agriculture since his childhood and always wanted to grow something exceptional rather than traditional crops like paddy.

This led to an attempt to grow a type of date native to Saudi Arabia in 2008 but the soil and climate conditions were not suitable, leaving him disappointed when the trees dried up after a few years.

He persevered though and was ultimately introduced to dragon fruit farming.

Zaman said there are currently eight types of pitaya trees in his garden, which bear fruits between April and November.

Besides, each seedling sells for Tk 150 to Tk 500 while the price of cuttings ranges from Tk 80 to Tk 150.

“Most orders come online and are delivered through courier service,” he added.

Eager people flock to have a glimpse of Zaman’s garden and considering his success, young men of nearby villages are also trying their hand at dragon fruit farming.

As such, at least 50 small and big pitaya gardens have been developed in different areas of Kalapara upazila.

Farmer Sohel Gharami of the neighbouring Dhankhali union said he has started cultivating dragon fruit on a small scale.

Siddique Gazi, a farmer of Nilganj village under the same union, said Zaman’s garden is mind-blowing and he plans to follow his example.

While Zaman has created interest among many in his area, hundreds of miles away to the east, Toyo Mro from the Bandarban Chimbuk area won accolades from Bangla daily Prothom Alo in 2018 by becoming an ideal gardener.

He developed a low-cost cultivation system for pitaya in the hilly areas, which are favourable for cultivating the fruit because the weather and hills ensure that there is no chance of waterlogging.

Goni Mia from Rangamati, who cultivated pitaya on about one acre of land, sold about Tk 600,000 worth the fruit this year to make a handsome profit.

Farmers sell dragon fruit for between Tk 350 and Tk 100 per kilogramme depending on their size. Somor Sing Roaza from Khagrachhari district said he has been using a mixed process cultivation method to grow dragon fruit alongside mangoes on around one acre of land for the last eight years.

However, he could not make an adequate profit this year as the lack of rain prevented his pitaya from growing large.

“So, local traders were not willing to buy them for a big amount,” he added.

KM Mohiuddin, deputy director of the DAE in Patuakhali, said they are encouraging farmers by setting up demonstration farms in eight upazilas of Patuakhali on a total of 15 hectares of land this season.


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