A youth from Jhenidah district of Bangladesh has achieved success by cultivating and selling oranges of Darjeeling variety.
Rafiqul Islam, 42, of Chapatala village under Moheshpur upazila in the district, grew up amid poverty and could not even continue his education after passing Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exam in 1993.
But those with aspiration cannot be hindered with limitations. Rafikul was one among them. He started his nursery business in the village, 64 kilometres away from district headquarters and 400 yards from Indian frontier, and grew little by little.
In 2016, he went to Darjeeling in India where he saw orchards of oranges of Darjeeling variety. He was fascinated with the colour and taste of the variety and got inspired to cultivate the fruit in Bangladesh.
He purchased orange plants of this variety at Tk 200 each and planted those on a four-bigha land he had leased. In the three years that followed, the plants grew up and have begun bearing fruits recently.
Talking to The Daily Star, Rafikul said he has so far sold oranges of the variety worth Tk 3 lakh till December 25 last year at Tk 120 per kilogramme, and will be selling the fruits worth another Tk 2 lakh this year. He has also sold grafting of the plants worth Tk 5 lakh.
Each plant of this variety can bear fruits for around 12-15 years continuously, Rafikul said, adding that cultivators have to keep the orchard neat and clean and spray insectivide to make sure that insects and hornets cannot attack the plants when those bear fruits.
A strong fence is needed around this orchard so that no stray animals can harm the plot and nobody can enter in it, he said.
Rafikul also said he has expanded his orchard by planting the trees to seven-bigha more land this year. Hundreds of farmers of nearby districts and villages are thronging to his orchard to witness this successful cultivation at the remote village and purchase plants from him to begin their own cultivation, he added.
While visiting Rafikul’s orchard, this correspondent saw hundreds of oranges hanging on each tree. The oranges have a mouth-watering taste and vibrant colour.
Talking to The Daily Star, Alamgir Hossain, a fruit trader in Dhaka, and two local traders -- Faruk Hossain and Abdus Salam of Kushumpur Bazar – said that Rafikul’s oranges are as good as those cultivated in Darjeeling in terms of taste, size and colour.
The fruits do not need any chemical to be preserved either, they added.
Dr Alhaj-Uddin, Director (Training Wing) of Bangladesh Agricultural Extension Department, who had recently visited Rafikul’s orchard, said that there are some orange cultivations in the hilly areas, however, this is the first time the fruit is being cultivated on plain land in Bangladesh.
Cultivation of this orange variety should be expanded all over Bangladesh as it will play a vital role to fulfill the nutritional demand of the consumers and financially benefit the farmers.
Moheshpur upazila Agricultural Officer Md Hasan Ali and Deputy Director of Jhenidah AED Amit Kumar Bagchi told The Daily Star that this orange variety is very tasty as well as profitable, adding that local farmers are being inspired to cultivate this orange variety and the authorities are also trying to expand its cultivation.