Friday, March 13, 2009

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. 

anwar.ali@thedailystar.net

http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=79462

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