When all kinds of business in Bangladesh have been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, orange business in Brahmanbaria has been booming amid this adversity.
Fruit traders in the district say an average of 40,000 to 50,000 kg of oranges (locally familiar as malta) was sold daily in the district before the outbreak of the epidemic, but that has doubled after the outbreak.
Doctors are advising Covid-19 patients to eat fruits in addition to normal food to boost the immune system. As orange is rich in Vitamin-C, its demand in the market has increased a lot. So this season, the orange farmers of Bijoynagar upazila of Brahmanbaria are expecting sales worth around Tk10 crore.
According to the Upazila Agriculture Department, malta has been cultivated in the hilly areas of Bijoynagar upazila, bordering the Indian state of Tripura, for the past few years. This year, orange is being cultivated on 50 hectares of land in different areas of Paharpur, Harashpur, Singerbil and Bishnupur unions of the upazila.
At present, there are about 150 orange orchards in the upazila. Green coloured orange of Bari-1 and Bari-2 varieties are being cultivated in each garden. The Department of Agriculture expects more than 800 tonnes of orange to be produced in the orchards in Bijoynagar this season. Due to high profits, many farmers in the upazila have become interested in farming the fruit.
Covid-19 has not affected our business; rather, the demand has increased. I never had to go to the market to sell my produce; buyers come to the garden and buy
The Upazila Agriculture Office provides saplings to farmers free of cost. The cost of cultivating this seasonal fruit is also comparatively low.
Moreover, traders say the demand for orange produced in Bijoynagar in the markets of Brahmanbaria is more than that of the imported one as it is free of formalin. The farmers in the district have demanded that the government stop imports to keep the domestic market stable.
Alamgir Mia, an orange farmer from Paharpur union of Bijoynagar, said, "I am cultivating orange on 99 decimals of land. I expect my garden to produce about seven tonnes of malta this season."
"Covid-19 has not affected our business; rather, the demand has increased. I never had to go to the market to sell my produce; buyers come to the garden and buy," he added.
From next season, we will be able to export orange after meeting the local demand
Moshiur Rahman, a seasonal fruit trader from the district town, said he bought a one-acre orange orchard in Khatinga village for Tk4.5 lakh this season due to increased demand in the market. He hopes to sell fruits worth around Tk10 lakh.
Bijoynagar Upazila Agriculture officer Khizir Hossain Pramanik said Bijoynagar is a very promising place for fruit cultivation. Orange, in particular, is a potential fruit here. About 500 tonnes were produced in Bijoynagar last season. This season the production will increase to more than 800 tonnes and it will increase further in the next season.
"From next season, we will be able to export orange after meeting the local demand," he added.
Liton Faraji, president of the Brahmanbaria Sadar and Sarail-Bishworoad Fruit Traders Association, said, "An average of 40,000 to 50,000 kg of orange was sold daily in our warehouses before the outbreak. At that time, the demand was a bit lower than other fruits, but the sales have risen since June. Now, on an average, more than one lakh kg of malta, worth Tk1.5 crore, is being sold in the district."
In the market, the local green orange is being sold for Tk110-130 per kg, and imported ones for Tk140-180.
Brahmanbaria Civil Surgeon Dr Mohammad Ekram Ullah said, "We ask Covid-19 patients to make sure they eat normal food first and then to eat moderate amounts of other nutritious and vitamin-rich foods to boost immunity."