Pineapples stacked up in vans at a wholesale market at Jalchhatra in Madhupur, Tangail. The upazila sees a bumper yield of the juicy summer fruit this season. Photo: Mirza Shakil
Growers and traders in Madhupur Garh region are excessively using growth hormones and artificial ripening agents in pineapples to make them bigger and to hasten the ripening process, posing serious health hazard.
They have also been using formalin to increase the shelf life of the popular summer fruit.
Markets of this region are deluged with different chemicals and hormones and trading of these chemicals is going unabated due to the lack of proper government monitoring.
Madhupur Garh is famous for producing Honey Queen and Giant Q varieties of pineapples and this year, the fruit was cultivated on around 10,000 hectares of land, agriculture officials said.
The orchard owners use different growth hormones including planofix and superfix in the fruit during the budding stage and before harvest. Then they use ethephon (or ethylene) after harvest for fast ripening and to make the fruits yellow, they added.
Later, formalin is sprayed on the fruits just before transportation, local pineapple growers said.
Farmer Abdul Aziz of Garobazar of Ghatail upazila, a recipient of Channel i agriculture award, said most farmers are unaware of the correct amount of chemicals to be applied as they did not have any training. They cannot even read the directions on the labels.
"Chemicals and hormones of different companies are available in several hundreds of shops in the region," Aziz said alleging that the local agriculture officials get tips from the companies for advising the farmers to use them in fruits.
Farmers spraying chemicals on a pineapple orchard at Jangalia of Madhupur. The photos were taken recently. Photo: Mirza Shakil
At least 45 hormones of 27 chemical companies, approved by the Field Service Wing of Khamar Bari in Dhaka, are available in local markets, sources in local agriculture officials as well as chemicals and insecticides traders said.
These chemicals and hormones are sold in the region during the growing seasons in crores of taka, they alleged.
Utpal Kumar Prodhan, assistant professor of food technology and nutritional science department of Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University, said harmful chemicals such as ethophen, ethrel, crops care, and calcium carbide were used by almost all of the local farmers for flowering, increasing size and to ripen immature fruits so that production and profits are better.
The reported chemicals are slow poisoning substances, consumption of which can cause vomiting, dizziness and long-time intake can make people vulnerable to cancer, liver and kidney diseases.
It is harmful for pregnant women and can cause mental retardation to children. The chemicals can also cause lung diseases to farmers if they spray them without wearing masks, he added.
"We have no information about the harms of using these hormones in fruits and government did not ban these," said Hazrat Ali, agriculture officer in Madhupur upazila.
He, however, admitted that the local fruit growers and traders use excessive amount of these hormones in the fruits causing them to lose their normal tastes.
Hafizur Rahman, a member of pineapple growers' cooperative association in Madhupur, said normally, pineapple starts ripening from its bottom edge around August without any chemical used. If growth hormones are not used then, the fruit turns black and its size also does not increase.
"Buyers, however, like big size and yellow pineapples," he added.