Favourable weather and proper care have brought bumper yields of vegetables including bitter gourd in Manikganj this season. Hundreds of farmers in the char areas have produced this crop, which they say will help them compensate the loss they conceded due to monsoon flood.
Improved road link with the capital and good market prices also help the farmers get a good profit from bitter gourd.
According to farmers, the cost of cultivating bitter gourd in one bigha of land is Tk30,000-Tk35,000. If the yield and market prices are as expected, the land can produce bitter gourd worth around Tk1.5 lakh easily.
In the current season, bitter gourd plantations can be seen on the lands in Char Mokimpur, Barahirchar, Gujurir Char, Chandir Char, Garakul, Dashani, and Char Krishnapur areas of Manikganj Sadar Upazila. Once, these areas would cultivate only maize. But now the farmers are producing different vegetables and making a good profit.
Wholesalers from the capital's Kawran Bazar, Shyambazar, Jatrabari, Gazipur Chaurasta and Bypail Bazar of Savar gather in the makeshift warehouses in different areas of Manikganj Sadar upazila to buy vegetables. Every day from noon to evening, the vegetable warehouses become busy with buyers and sellers.
About 200 maunds of bitter gourd are brought daily in the temporary warehouses of East Makimpur area of Manikganj Sadar upazila. The wholesalers buy bitter gourd from here and take it to various markets in and around the capital. Every day, about 20 to 25 wholesale buyers come to Mokimpur to buy bitter gourd.
Sohag Mollah, a farmer in the Char Makimpur area, said he has sold bitter gourd worth Tk1.5 lakh from his two bighas of land, so far. The crops that are still in the land will fetch around Tk1 lakh more.
"The crop is available to harvest from after 40 days of sowing to the next 60 days," said Sohag.
Nader Mia, a farmer from East Makimpur area, said he has cultivated bitter gourd on three bighas of land spending around Tk1 lakh. From these three bighas of land, he has so far sold bitter gourd for Tk3 lakh. He said that bitter gourd worth more than Tk1.5 lakh is still on his land.
The demand for bitter gourd in the market has also attracted educated youths of Manikganj to cultivate this crop in their ancestral land in their spare time that they have found due to the closure of educational institutions amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Zakir Hossain, a Master's student in the political science department at Sarkari Devendra University College, is one of them.
He said his studies were almost over. He was trying to get a government job. However, he is involved in agricultural work with his father as there is no work during the pandemic.
If one can cultivate vegetables in the agricultural land regularly, one can get a good profit," he added.
Shahjahan Mia, a wholesale vegetable trader, said he buys a variety of vegetables, including bitter gourd from different areas of Manikganj Sadar upazila and sells them in the capital's market.
"I bought bitter gourd from East Makimpur area as there is a demand for it in the capital now. The wholesale price of bitter gourd in the local market is Tk13,00-14,00 per maund. The price is Tk18,00-20,00 per maund in the capital," he said.
Another businessman named Abdur Rahim said that the communication system from Manikganj to Dhaka is quite good.
"You can buy vegetables from farmers and reach Dhaka with fresh vegetables in a short time. That is why the demand for vegetables from Manikganj is high in the wholesale markets of the capital", he said.
Deputy Director of the Department of Agricultural Extension of Manikganj Shahjahan Ali Biswas said, "Vegetables are cultivated in each of the seven upazilas of Manikganj. During the current season, various types of winter vegetables including bitter gourd have been cultivated in about 9,000 hectares of land in the district."
"The farmers of the district are benefiting from the bumper crop of winter vegetables despite being affected by two floods," he added.