Salahuddin Ujjal is taking care of grape plants in his firm. Photo: Rasel Shah
Bangladeshi farmers have been trying to cultivate grapes for a long time beside other high value crops. Many have tried their best and came really closer to success and very few have actually gotten hold of it. Scientists have also kept on working hard to mitigate difficulties. Sporadic commercial farming went on as well. But in Barunkandi village, situated in Naogaon, a man has proven that grape farming in Bangladesh is possible.
Salahuddin Ujjal, a young agricultural entrepreneur, made this a reality. He has great love for farming but believes that if a farmer doesn't get benefited at the end of the day, then farming means nothing to him. So, whatever he does has to be commercially viable and grapes and strawberries are more profitable. Ujjal has around 350 grape plants and in more than hundreds of them, grapes are already getting ready to be harvested during October and November this year. He is farming the Australian seedless crimson variety. Although there was confusion around these grapes growing sour in our country, but these varieties look fresh and they taste sweet. “The grapes we import are definitely sweet. But, my grapes are sweeter”, says Ujjal with a confident smile.
Grape farming in Bangladesh Photo: Rasel Shah
As a child, Ujjal wanted to become a teacher. It was his dream. His father was a government servant. Ujjal couldn't become a teacher as he had to take the responsibility of his family when he was really young. He joined a private company at a small salary. It was a tough time for him and for his family. Ujjal was resilient and fought back with his farming ideas of cultivating grapes and other high value crops. His grapes are truly a remarkable story of a man who kept on fighting, who never gave up.
In 2012, Ujjal took lease of 100 decimals of land and adventurously planted 350 grape plants. The eastern part of his land is proving to be more fruitful than the western part. He believes from 100 plants he would be able to get around 250-300 kgs of grapes which would give him Tk. 70,000. The bigger bunches of grapes would give him 800 grams and the smaller ones would give him 250 grams of grape. He has already harvested 40 kgs and expects to harvest 8,000 kgs by 2015 which would give him 1,600,000 taka from one season and two harvests. “It grows best over loam and sandy loam soil”, says Ujjal. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) should be concentrating their efforts more on how to produce this precious fruit which would also make the farmers financially stable. “It grows best with organic fertilizer”, adds Ujjal.
At present, internet is the only source and saviour for Ujjal's grape farming. He finds all the answers to his problems from the internet. But, how many farmers would be able to do that? There should be a concrete planning for this and fact-based solution so that farmers have access to information. Although dry and hot weather are perfect for grape farming, slight rainfall and cool weather would make the production better. Sunny climate is ideal for grape cultivation. That is why Ujjal has selected the orchard that is set high above land. His plants have been able to give more flowers and he's also cultivating strawberries which are giving him an added profit as well. The locals have admitted that Ujjal's grapes are indeed very sweet.
Ujjal follows the grafting method to make more and more grapes. Grape farming is gaining popularity in the area. He's spreading the message of grape farming in his region and many farmers are getting interested in it. Ujjal believes that farmers can earn good profits by growing the nutritious fruit. Thus he's leading many to earn profits from commercial grape cultivation.
Stories of such successful agro-entrepreneurs show us the path of light and a new horizon in local farming. These adventurous farmers like Ujjal take the challenge and make it successful as their indigenous talent is undoubtedly the key to agricultural innovation and accomplishment. Meanwhile, Bangladesh has been able to farm strawberries and dragon fruits. There are sporadic success stories on grape cultivation, but the way Salahuddin Ujjal has moved onward, he will literally be the most successful among others who gave grape farming a shot. I also believe that grape farming will spread fast all over the country. And, through initiatives like these, Bangladesh will secure a great position in producing nutritious, luscious and high value crops across the country.