Several hundred palm farmers in the district are frustrated as they cannot find a market for the fruit or extract palm oil, although their orchards have been yielding the fruit for the last three to four years.
Palm trees were introduced in Bangladesh from Malaysia in 2008 by the then caretaker government. They encouraged farmers to grow palm orchards, saying that only one palm tree can yield around 150 kg of edible palm oil, while a palm orchard can make them rich overnight.
Apart from edible oil, 120 kinds of profitable products can be made from palm leaves, stems and seeds, farmers said, quoting officials of non-governmental organisations (NGO).
College teacher Abdul Gaffar, also a palm farmer of Jaldhaka upazila town, said officials of NGO Green Bangladesh advised him to grow a palm orchard, saying that they would purchase nuts directly from him at high price.
“I am looking for the NGO officials as my palm trees are yielding the fruit now, but I cannot contact them,” he alleged.
Not only Green Bangladesh but also Swanirvar Shayamol Bangla and local nurseries imported palm seeds from Malaysia and sold thousands of palm saplings in the district for Tk 400 to Tk 500 each, palm farmers said.
Abdul Halim, 40, a palm farmer of Mekor Tari village in Sadar upazila, said he made a palm garden on one bigha of land ten years ago after collecting saplings from a nursery.
“My palm trees have been yielding the fruit for the last four years, but I am frustrated as I cannot sell them for want of buyers. I don't know how to extract palm oil from the nuts, so I have to throw them away,” Halim added.
Abdul Kuddus Sheikh, 78, of Munshipara village in Kishoreganj upazila town, said he planted 65 palm trees on one and a half bighas of land. But, like hundreds of palm farmers in the district, he is frustrated as there are no buyers and no palm oil extracting machine.
Nilphamari Department of Agriculture Extension Deputy Director Abul Kashem Azad said they contacted the higher authorities, seeking a directive.
He advised palm growers to boil the palm nuts in water and squeeze them to get pure edible oil.