After successful cultivation of black pepper in the port city, initiative has been taken to take its cultivation to Chattogram Hill Tracts.
Cultivation of the 100 percent import-based spice first started in the country at Mirsarai and Fatikchhari upazilas of Chattogram in 2016.
Under the initiative of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), government-owned apex development organisation, around 20 farmers started black pepper cultivation on hilly, fallow and uncultivated lands in Chattogram. At present, more or less 200 farmers are commercially cultivating the spice on about 60 acres of land.
According to sources, around 1,500 tonnes of black pepper worth Tk60 crore is imported annually to meet the local demand.
Inspired by the commercial success, PKSF has now undertaken a project to take commercial cultivation of black pepper to the three hill districts of Bandarban, Khagrachhari and Rangamati in 2021.
As a result, it is possible to reduce the import dependence and save a lot of foreign currency as well as export, officials of PKSF and Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (BADC) hoped.
It costs about Tk4 lakh to plant pepper seedlings on 1 acre of land, including all expenses. After three years the harvest begins. Yield reaches the desired level from the fifth year.
From one acre of land, after five years, farmers will be able to sell pepper worth Tk4 lakh besides selling saplings worth Tk3 lakh.
The cost of field maintenance, fertilisers and pesticides will be around Tk50,000 per year.
Black pepper plants yield for up to 25 years.
PKSF Senior General Manager Akand Md Rafiqul Islam told The Business Standard, "In 2017, PKSF's local partner OPCA started implementing a three-year project of cultivating black pepper in Mirsarai and Fatikchhari upazilas of Chattogram. We are overwhelmingly successful in this project. Many interested farmers of those areas are now trying to cultivate black pepper taking saplings from farmers under the project."
"With the successful experience of implementing the experimental project, we are now going to undertake a big project to involve people of indigenous communities of Chattogram Hill Tracts in black pepper cultivation. Once cultivation of black pepper expands to the three hill districts, we are confident that meeting the local demand, it would be possible to export the spice to abroad," he said.
Deputy Director of Bandarban BADC Dipak Kumar Das said the CHT hills are very suitable for cultivation of black pepper. If proper care can be ensured, the initiative is sure to be fruitful.
Spice traders of Chattogram said black pepper is imported from Sri Lanka, India and Vietnam, to be sold at Tk400-600 per kg in wholesale and Tk1,000 per kg in retail markets.
OPCA Executive Director Md Alamgir said under the project they provided financial and technical support for three years to 20 farmers.
"Tk1,25,000 has been spent for each farmer to buy seedlings, poles and pesticides and to provide training. This year, some farmers have started getting yield," he added.
Asharam Tripura, a farmer from Khamarpara village under Korerhat union at Mirsarai upazila, said, "Two years ago, I planted 550 saplings of black pepper. Besides giving financial assistance for its cultivation, OPCA trained us how to cultivate, preserve and process the spice."
He expects yields from next year.
Srikanta Tripura, another pepper farmer, cultivated pepper on 25 decimal land and already started getting yield this year. "I hope the yield will increase further next year."