Turning a lofty idea into reality | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 05, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:03 PM, December 05, 2020

Turning a lofty idea into reality

Entrepreneur sets up apple orchard on a Sirajganj shoal after bringing saplings from India’s Himachal Pradesh

While quite a popular fruit in the country, the apples we eat are almost entirely imported from various countries abroad.

Now, the winter fruit is being cultivated in the remote shoal area of Khas Char Jamalpur in Sirajganj's Ullapara upazila where entrepreneur Borhan Uddin has been making the impossible possible.

Despite the challenges of apple cultivation in the weather and terrain of Bangladesh, Borhan Uddin, an executive of a multinational company, undertook a fruitful field trip -- visiting several apple orchards in India two years ago for training on its cultivation.

Borhan said he had been discouraged by those who cultivated apples in other countries, who said Bangladesh's weather would not favour apple cultivation.

"At last, a researcher in Himachal Pradesh of India asked me to do test cultivation of a few varieties after he saw my interest."

On his three bigha shoal land in Khas Char Jamalpur, he planted a few apple trees in 2018 with saplings he collected from his Himachal Pradesh visit.

While a few of the plants died, most grew -- inspiring Borhan to plant more. He eventually planted over 200 apple trees and was able to harvest apples from 35 of those in his orchard this June.

This caught him by surprise -- apple trees usually flower after two years in colder temperatures -- as this came within 15 months of planting the trees.

Borhan expects over 100 trees to bear fruit by next summer.

"Some trees gave 50-60 apples and a few gave less than 10, but I am satisfied with the amount I got so early," he said.

He said the Indian producers assured him that with this being only the primary production, there was no reason to worry, as it would increase in the next three to five years.

The varieties Borhan planted in his orchard are HRMN-99, Dorsett Golden, Anna, Tropic Sweet, and Granny Smith.

Cultivation of these varieties is also new in India with farmers around the country growing the HRMN-99 variety in particular. The HRMN-99 was recently invented by a farmer from Himachal Pradesh and these varieties are all able to grow at low altitudes and higher temperatures.

Speaking to The Daily Star, Md Ajmal Haque, deputy assistant orchard preservation officer of Ullapara's agriculture office, said Borhan's success was admirable given the unfavourable weather conditions and the newness of his venture.

"The agriculture office gave all necessary suggestions and support that we could for his orchard. Even though this is new here, we saw that he had received proper training on it."

"He has made the impossible possible by producing fruit normally grown in cold countries on this shoal land," Ajmal added.

The more commonly grown crops in Khas Char Jamalpur are radish and eggplant.

Given that apples are widely in demand in the country, and that imported fruit from neighbouring and other countries are mostly preserved with toxic substances, homegrown apple production would be a boon, said experts.

"Apples are only produced in one season everywhere in the world but we get the fruit year-round because they are preserved with toxic substances to maintain the 'beauty' of the fruit," said agriculturist Zafar Sadek.

"If apple production becomes readily available in our country, it will be a great success for the agriculture sector," he added.

As his test production saw success, Borhan said he will progress with commercial production of apples -- probably the first commercial cultivation of the winter fruit in Bangladesh, he claimed.

While many still consider apple production impossible in our country, a few varieties can easily be grown here, Borhan said, adding that apple production is relatively cheaper than growing similar fruits.

"We still have no experience of directly growing the plant, so I am importing apple plants which is quite costly. But there are no extra expenses for cultivation."

If he is successful in commercial-scale cultivation of the fruit, he will proceed with also growing the apple plants here, he added.


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