Sajek in Rangamati's Baghaichhari upazila used to be known for producing sweet mandarin orange, which is simply called orange in the country. Slowly but steadily, that fame is being taken over by Naniarchar upazila of the district.
Larger than the size of a tennis ball and sweeter in taste than the ones grown in Sajek, the mandarin oranges produced in Naniarchar are gaining popularity all across the country.
Mandarin oranges are flatter on both ends than the typical sweet orange, and easy to peel.
Other than vitamin C, mandarin orange is packed with a lot of minerals and antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. The antioxidant in the fruit helps to lower bad cholesterol. Its skin even has many nutritional compounds.
During a recent visit to Shoileshwari village Burighat union of Naniarchar upazila, this correspondent came across several commercial gardens where hundreds of large trees were seen covered with a huge yield of mandarin oranges.
Farmers and workers were seen busy plucking ample-sized ripe mandarin oranges. The trees were supported by bamboo poles so those can withstand the heavy load of the fruits.
Ranjan Chakma, one of the garden owners in Shoileshwari village, said the fruit is very sweet and each weighs about 250 to 300 grams. Depending on weight, a pair of mandarin orange grown in his garden is now selling for Tk 40 to 80 at local markets.
Ranjan also said he cultivated total 800 saplings of mandarin orange on three acres of land in 2008. Some of the trees started producing fruit in 2013 and he started selling the fruits from 200 of the trees in 2014.
He now has 600 mandarin orange trees in his garden and most of the trees are now full of ripe fruits. "This year my investment was only Tk 1 lakh. But I already sold Tk 7 lakh worth of the fruit and I hope to sell another Tk 1 lakh worth," he added.
Ranjan's success made quite an impact in the area and many farmers are making good amount of investments in the cultivation of mandarin orange.
Naba Jyoti Chakma, a resident of Namakarbari Para of Sabekkhong union in the same upazila, said inspired by Ranjan's success, "In 2009, I planted 200 orange saplings that I bought from Ranjan. I started to sell some oranges from my garden this year."
Burighat union's Talukder para resident Dayal Chakma said with the Shoileshwari mandarin oranges gaining popularity, he planted 500 saplings of the variety on one acre of land last year.
When asked, fruit trader Shanti Chakma said the sweet mandarin orange of Naniarchar now has high demands at different markets.
No other mandarin orange variety grown in Chattogram hill tracts is as large as the ones produced in Naniarchar, said Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Rangamati.
DAE Deputy Director in Rangamati Paban Kumar Chakma said the soil in Naniarchar upazila is suitable for mandarin orange and as opposed to 8,000 tonnes of the fruit produced on 700 hectares of land last year, they expect that its production will reach 9,600 tonnes in the district from 800 hectares this year.