Barisal division is known for amra (hog plum). Enriched with vitamins, this sweet-and-sour fruit can be eaten raw, cooked in a curry or as pickles. The nutritious seasonal delicacy grows in abundance in Barisal, Jhalakathi and Pirojpur districts.
While visiting the orchards and markets in the districts recently, this correspondent saw growers and wholesalers were passing a busy time plucking, packaging and selling the popular fruit during the ongoing peak season.
Flowers appear in the trees in the Bangla months of Magh and Falgun (mid-January to mid-February) and the fruit is plucked from Ashar to Ashwin (mid-June to mid-September).
According to the Department of Agricultural Extensions (DAE), around 1,339 hectares of land is used for hog plum cultivation in the three districts while around 19,847 metric tonnes of fruit has so far been produced this year.
This year's yield is much higher than last year's, said Ramendra Nath Barai, deputy director of DAE, Barisal.
However, many growers said the high production has lowered the market price. They said they were selling per maund at Tk 900 to Tk 1,000 to the local wholesalers; almost half the price they got last year.
Gokul Majumder, a grower in Jhalakathi's Jindakathi area, said, “Last year, I made around Tk 15 lakh after selling the fruits grown on three acres of land. This year, it was less than Tk 10 lakh.”
Hog plum grower Santosh Mandal of Kurinana village under Pirojpur's Swarupkathi upazila echoed him.
Many of the local wholesalers also said they were unable to make a profit this year.
Alamgir, a wholesaler of Swarupkathi upazila, said, “Due to the high yield, we are also selling the fruit at a lower price.”
Faridul Alam, another wholesaler of the upazila, said they were selling the hog plums at Tk 1,500 to Tk 1,600 per maund, which was much less compared to last year's. “We also have to add transport cost while sending the fruit to other areas such as Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet,” he added.
Meanwhile, many of the growers alleged that some “middlemen” were controlling the markets by buying the fruit in bulk from them in advance. They requested the authorities concerned to take initiatives to cut the middlemen out and help them get fair prices.
Contacted, the deputy director of DAE, Barisal said they were planning to establish a market where the hog plum growers would be able to sell directly to the buyers.