Malta farming becomes boon for Rajshahi farmers

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RAJSHAHI, Aug 16, 2018 (BSS)-Many farmers in the region have become successful in malta farming by dint of its lucrative market price for the last couple of years.

Cultivation of the citrus fruit is gaining popularity in the region, including its vast Barind tract, with the help of the local agricultural offices.

Hundreds of people from ultra-poor families have attained self-reliance by cultivating malta.

SM Mustafizur Rahman, additional director of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), said malta cultivation began in the area in 2013 and till now the fruit is being cultivated on more than 50 hectares of land. Growers are making a good profit from it, he added.

Abdul Matin, a farmer of Gofanagar village under Mohadevpur upazila in Naogaon district, has set an instance of becoming successful through malta farming in the area.

After getting technical support from local horticulture centre, Abdul Matin initiated the malta
farming on August 10, 2016. Already, he has started getting fruit.

Now, there are 65 malta and five orange trees in his orchard. Apart from, he has five lemon, seven papaya, two litchi and three coconut trees as intercropping. On the vacant lands, he has been cultivating turmeric and arum to get additional profit.

Agriculturist Rahman said there are malta orchards on more than 200 bigha of lands in Godagari, Tanore, Nachole and Gomostapur upazilas and Chapainawabganj Sadar upazila.

DAE officials encouraged farmers for cultivating malta as the climate and soil of the region are suitable for the fruit.

A grower of Jhilim area in Chapainawabganj, Motiur harvested 850 pieces of malta last year, which he sold for Tk 17,500.

The locally-produced maltas are of a bright yellow colour, large and very sweet, which appealed to customers. “Customers buy my maltas directly,” explains Motiur adding, “I cannot satisfy their demand.”

In such circumstances, he extended the orchard last year to cover an additional six bighas, with six hundred more saplings. “I count on one to two hundred maltas per tree,” he said, estimating this year’s harvest.

He said, “About 15,000 maltas will be produced in this orchard.”

He also makes a good income from sapling production. Each of the saplings is being sold between Tk 250 and Tk 400. He has invested Tk 8 lakh and is expecting to earn Tk 20 lakh through malta and sapling sales.

Motiur estimates a further 10,000 saplings will be ready for sale within two months. Last year, the farmers sold the cash crop at Taka 20 to 30 per piece. Being inspired by the success, Moslem Ali, a farmer of Lalpur village under Tanore Upazla, has started malta farming on one and a half bighas of land.

“I am planting malta orchards on my four bighas at Babudaying in Chapainawabganj Sadar upazila and on my sixty bighas in Gomostapur upazila,” said amateur farmer Mahbubur Rahman, who sees value in following Motiur’s lead.

In total, 150 bighas in the district are being transformed into malta orchards.

Dr Abdul Alim, Principal Scientific Officer of Fruit Research Station, said farmers can harvest more than 100 fruits from every plant per season. Sweetness of locally produced malta is nine times more than those imported from China, India and Pakistan, he said.

Each hali (four pieces) of the fruit is being sold at Tk 120 to Tk 130 in the retail market while the wholesale price is Tk 90 to Tk 100, the grower added.

Dr Alim said farmers have shown more interest in growing malta on a large scale in their cropland instead of common fruit as the farming is easier than other fruits. The plants are not affected with fungus easily, he added.

“The region’s soil is actually favourable for malta cultivation,” says Dr Alim. He said it is possible to produce especially sweet and high quality malta here.

“I have a five-year plant that yielded 90 fruits on an average during last three years,” said Harun Or Rashid, another grower of Kachua village under the same upazila.

He said farming of sweet malta was a dream of farmers in the dried region. The dream has now been translated into reality with help of modern agriculture technology.

The red, hard and dry Barind Tract soils offer challenge to even seasoned farmers. Maltas have no tradition of being grown there. Nonetheless, Harun Or Rashid thought
to give them a try. Eco-friendly fruit bags are being used to protect the fruits from insects and fungal spotting.

Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA), the ever-largest irrigation proving public entity in the region, has been motivating the farmers towards promoting fruit farming including malta, said Dr Akram Hossain Chowdhury, chairman of BMDA.

He said the initiative will help promoting a greenery area together with lessening gradually mounting pressure on underground water.

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