Things turned around for Murshed Mia and his wife Swapna Begum ten years ago when they tried their luck in organic farming of mandarin in Moulvibazar’s Juri upazila.
Their profit from the first harvest was one of the success stories in the area and many others followed suit.
Not to be confused with orange, another fruit of the citrus species, mandarin is smaller and oblate in shape and sweeter and stronger in taste. Commonly called Kamola, the orange-coloured ripe fruit can be peeled easily and split into segments.
After finding out how chemical-tainted fruits pose threat to human health, Murshed and Swapna decided to grow fruits following only organic methods.
With that objective in mind, they contacted local office of Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE). From there they collected a variety called “Mandarin Bari” and planted 800 of the saplings on five acres of land in Lalchhara village. Their investment over the years reached to around Tk 50,000.
Murshed said this harvest season, he already sold 12 to 13 thousand pieces of mandarin to wholesalers for Tk 1,30,000 and he plans on planting another 300 saplings of the fruit tree on an additional three acres of land.
Inspired by his success, at least a hundred others are now growing mandarin on hilltops of Juri upazila.
Jasim Uddin, agriculture officer in the upazila, said yield of pineapple or other crops from dry soil of the hills is not satisfactory and that is the reason why the farmers in the area are choosing mandarin.
The local growers are quite happy with mandarin as they are getting high yield of the fruit. Spending around Tk 7,000 on one acre of land, a grower can make around Tk 20 to 25 thousand from sale of the fruit.
Mandarin harvest in Juri upazila has so far been excellent and the DAE in the upazila estimated that its production will reach 485 tonnes this year as opposed to last year’s 480 tonnes, the official said, adding that a large amount of foreign currency could be saved if more mandarin was produced locally rather than imported.
Monir Mia, another mandarin farmer in Lalchhara village, said in previous years, he had to sell green mandarin due to infestation of insects in ripe fruits.
But this year, he has been able to sell ripe mandarin at good prices as the insect attack could be minimised with the use of natural fertiliser and constant care of the trees.
“I sold each mandarin for Tk 5 to 8 last year. But this year, its quality and size have improved and I got Tk 10 to 12 for a piece. Adequate rainfall coupled with natural fertiliser also played a vital role,” he said.
Fruit trader Umed Mia, who came from Bhoirab to buy mandarin from orchards in Juri, said quality of the fruit in Juri is better this year.
“Instead of using chemical fertilisers and insecticides, the fruit here is grown following organic methods with the use of vermicompost and bio-pesticides. Each weighing 150 to 200 grams, it’s tastier than the imported ones and highly popular in local market,” he also said.
Dr Md Sharaf Uddin, chairman of Agroforestry and Environmental Science department at Sylhet Agricultural University, said yield of mandarin in the upazila has been good this year due to favourable weather conditions.
Juri Upazila Nirbahi Officer Asim Chandra Banik said farmers in the area are being encouraged to cultivate mandarin as local climate and soil are suitable for its farming.
According to DAE, there are 812 mandarin orchards on nearly 93 hectares of hilly landscape across six unions in the upazila.