Around 10 years ago, leaving an IT job in Dhaka, Shahadat Hossain ventured into guava cultivation on plains in Rajshahi, but fortune did not smile on him.
Nevertheless, he did not give up on his passion for becoming an agri-entrepreneur; he continued his hard work that eventually paid off after he had chosen char land for guava farming.
After years of struggle, in 2018, he planted guava seedlings on 28.5 acres of land in Char Naoshara area of Rajshahi's Godagari upazila.
Then, it took only two years for the turn of his fortune – he started making profits and pocketed around Tk28 lakh in 2020.
This year, he expects his profit to triple with his adoption of modern technology in his garden.
Guavas from his garden are sent to different parts of the country, including Dhaka.
"The lifespan of guava trees increases as chars are made of sandy-loamy soils. On dry land, such trees do not last more than three years, while they can survive for up to five years on chars," said Shahadat.
Shahadat, who graduated from Rajshahi College in Economics, worked for an IT farm in Dhaka for two years. But he always wanted to do something different.
"After leaving the job I came to Rajshahi and consulted with a local agricultural officer. I started guava farming 10 years ago as per his advice," Shahadat told The Business Standard.
"I am now earning a good amount of money. I think educated youths can invest their money and talent in this sector," he added.
Shahadat also has a 40-bigha guava garden on plains in Rajshahi alongside the garden in Char Naoshara.
Earlier, he had a 105-bigha guava garden in Godagari, but all the trees there died within three and a half years. However, only 15 trees have so far died in his new garden.
Shahadat said he took a lease of the char land at an annual rate of Tk15,000 per bigha – Tk4.20 lakh in total.
In the first year of farming, he had to invest around Tk14 lakh, including land rent and costs of pesticide, irrigation and labour.
He has used growth hormones in his garden this year to increase production. He is expecting a profit of Tk50 lakh this year.
Growth hormone is a type of medicine approved by the government to be used at the base of a tree, he said.
Shahadat said, "Guava is available all year round, thanks to the grafting method. We get both small and big guavas from the same tree. For big guavas we use the bagging technique."
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), guava is cultivated on 4,000 hectares of land in Rajshahi. The annual production rate is 50 to 55 tonnes per hectare during the guava season. In the off-season, it is 25 to 30 tonnes per hectare.
The department said the average price of guava is between Tk40 and Tk100 per kg. In Rajshahi, around 60,000 people are employed in different guava gardens.
KJM Abdul Awal, deputy director of the DAE, said, "Guava is not a seasonal crop like mango or litchi. Irrigation, fertilisers, pesticides and growth hormones can be used to get the desired production of guava. Farmers do not market guava when there are plums or other fruits in the market."
He said guava is more expensive than mango. Mango has also been sold at Tk30-Tk40 per kg this year. But guava is never sold for less than Tk40 per kg.
Guava is also a healthy fruit. Birds and insects can do no harm to guava as farmers use the fruit-bagging technique. Even using pesticides does not cause any damage to the guava. There is no risk of Nipah virus or blood flu either, he added.
Regarding the cultivation of guava in char areas, Abdul Awal said, "The guava of Rajshahi is delicious as it is a subtropical region. The soil of char areas is more fertile. However, it is a little difficult to market guavas from chars. You have to transport the guavas by boat to the other side of the river to take them on trucks. This increases the transportation cost."
"Even then, people like Shahadat are cultivating guavas in char areas which is really commendable," he added