Journey through Bangladesh
Lemon Cultivation in the Sylhet Region
Commercial lemon cultivation has gained popularity in the Moulvibazar district as well as in the Sylhet region. There seems to be a bright future for this business. Every year more people are getting interested in growing lemons. Thousands of hectares of land are now being used for lemon cultivation. Most of these growers now have the means to not only produce good lemons but also market them.
Hilly lands in 10 upazilas of Greater Sylhet have been turned into fruit-growing havens. Most of these fruit gardens are lemon gardens. Lemons are now being cultivated at hilltop lands, slopes of hills, courtyards of homes and even in the normal crop lands of the region. The most popular varieties of lemon are Kagoji, Jara, Jhuta, China, Elachi, Beej-Shunya and Sharboti.
Lemon cultivation in the region was started in Srimongal upazila under Moulvibazar district about 35 years ago. Now it has been spreading out to Rajnagar, Baralekha, Kamalganj, Kulaura, and Juri upazilas under Moulvibazar district, Bahubol and Chunarughat upazilas of Hobigonj district and Beanibazar upazila of Sylhet district. Lemons are being cultivated in these areas in almost every season. But in the monsoon, the yield is particularly high. 80 percent of the total demand of lemon in the country is being supplied from these 10 upazilas. According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), lemons are being cultivated in 25 thousand hectares of hilly lands of these 10 upazillas. Annual production of lemon in these lands is 75 thousand metric tons. This total fetches a market value of over Taka 45 crore.
It is learnt that after the liberation of the country, a few interested people of Srimongol had started growing lemons in the hilly lands of the upazila. As these lands were very fertile, they were able to produce a huge amount. Later, other people became interested in this sector and lemon cultivation slowly became a recognized commercial practice.
Md Ahad Miah, now Chairman of Srimongol Municipality, said that after a few people of Srimongol started lemon cultivation in the seventies, within a few years time, this became their greatest source of income. Now, a great number of people of ten upazilas of the Sylhet region have gotten involved with lemon growing, said Ahad Miah.
Anukul Chandra Das, a lemon cultivator of Srimongal said that the total land in which he cultivates at Makrichhera is 50 acres. He has been cultivating lemons for six years. He is selling 10 thousand lemons from his garden daily. He sold lemons worth taka 16 lakh in 2005. Anukul said that he had plans to expand his garden.
Lemon cultivator of Muajirabad village, Shachin Deb said he had started lemon cultivation in 1973. At this initial stage, he had bought only 10 bighas of land. Now his lemon garden is nothing short of 40 acres. Muktar Ali of Goalbari village under Juri upazila said that it has been possible to increase production with the implementation of modern technology in lemon gardening. Now, lemons are being injected with chemicals. He said the rate at which lemon plants get diseases is quite high.
An officer of DAE in Baralekha upazilla said that the lemon gardens are situated in hilly lands, so there is insufficient arrangement for irrigation in the gardens. But if good irrigation facilities are provided, it is possible to increase lemon production. However, the main wholesale market of lemon is situated in Srimongol. There are more than 20 lemon warehouses in Srimongol. Warehouse owners are trading lemons with a 4 percent
commission. Wholesalers from different parts of the country are coming to Srimongol to purchase lemons. Jashim Miah, owner of a warehouse of lemons at Srimongol said lemons grown in the Sylhet region are being exported to the UK, USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Warehouse owners said that though lemons were being traded at all months of the year, May and June saw the greatest demand in the lemon market in 2007.
Noresh Chandra Barai, Upazila Agriculture Extension Officer, Srimongol, said lemon producers have been deprived of a fair price in the peak season. There is no preservation mechanism or lemon processing plant in Srimongol. If a lemon processing plant is built, not only will the lemon cultivators be benefited, more people will come forword to invest in the lemon industry.
Laxmi Kanta Pondit, Deputy Director of DAE, Moulvibazar Office, said his department has started work to help the lemon cultivators. Azmat Ullah, Senior Scientific Officer of the Agriculture Research Centre, Akbarpur in Moulvibazar said that his organization was trying to make innovations in lemon production through research.
Though lemons worth crores have been produced in this region, producers are a little disappointed as to the lack of government assistance in this business. They have been
deprived of a fair price due to the lack of a preservation facility at Srimongol. If proper facilities are constructed, then sustaining bumper productions of lemon will become possible and incomes will go up.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008