A good number of farmers in northwest Bangladesh have shifted to guava farming as the fruit brings good returns.
The water-stressed Barind region is perfect for growing guavas, which require a tenth of the water compared with traditional crops, such as paddy. Cultivation on the red, dry soil of on the highlands also presents farmers with many challenges.
However, in recent years, farmers found a good alternative in guavas, and attracted by good prices, they are expanding their orchards.
This year, they cultivated guavas on 1,040 hectares of land, up from just 530 hectares in 2006, said Monjurul Huda, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture Extension.
For irrigation, only occasional application of tube-well water is good enough.
Munjer Alam Manik of Dakkhin Shahor village under Sadar upazila has five orchards on 18 bighas of land.
He turned to guava farming in 2014, taking out lease of the land from locals. Subsequently, he invested Tk 25 lakh in the orchards, making a profit of around Tk 15 lakh in the first year alone.
“We put emphasis on organic farming. Instead of spraying pesticides, we wrap each fruit in food-grade poly bags to keep insects away. It prevents fungal spots from appearing on the fruit as well,” he said.
It saves the ecology and preserves the fruit at the same time. It does not take long to wrap each fruit either because the trees grow 8-10 feet tall and labourers can do it easily, he added.
Motiur Rahman of Atahar village is one of the first guava farmers in the region. He began in 2006, also on leased land, with an initial investment of Tk 9 lakh. Encouraged by good profits, he continued to expand his orchard.
This year, he already bagged a profit of around Tk 20 lakh from his 30-bigha guava farm, he said on Monday.
These trees bear fruit all year round, but prices are the highest in winter as there are fewer fruits available then, he said.
The current retail price is Tk 60 a kilogram.
Although this region is famous for its mangoes, guavas are more lucrative as it is available all year round, said Asadul Haque, a retailer of Nayadiari village under Gomostapur upazila.
“I can easily make about Tk 400 a day by selling 80-100 kilograms of guavas,” he added.