Brahmanbaria is expected to produce some 1,572 tonnes of sunflower seeds worth over Tk7 crore this year, according to estimates by the Department of Agriculture.
The district has witnessed a spike in sunflower farming over the last couple of years, as many farmers there are cultivating the oil seed buoyed by its immense commercial potential.
According to the Brahmanbaria district agriculture department, sunflower was first cultivated commercially on 40 hectares of land in the district last year.
In just one year, the total area of land brought under sunflower cultivation in all upazilas of the district has increased by about 20 times to reach 786 hectares this season.
Officials of the agriculture department said many farmers have opted for sunflower cultivation due to its good yield and market price.
Besides, as the Department of Agriculture is providing seeds and fertilizers as an incentive, farmers do not have to bear much cost of cultivation, they added.
Under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture, about 2,000 farmers are cultivating the Hyson-33 variety of sunflower on about 120 hectares of land and the RDS-275 variety on about 666 hectares of land.
Oilseeds are mainly collected from the flowers of a sunflower plant. At least two tonnes of oilseeds are produced on one hectare of land. Oilseeds are sold in the market at Tk45-50 a kg.
According to the agriculture department, 5.90 lakh litres of sunflower oil are expected to be made from 1,572 tonnes of seeds like be produced this year, which if sold at Tk150 per litre in the market will amount to Tk9 crore in total.
Sunflower plants are also used as a cooking fuel.
Hadiul Islam Bhuiyan, deputy assistant agriculture officer of Bijayanagarupazila in Brahmanbaria, said farmers have been planting sunflower seeds in the land since last January. Two months after planting, the flowers appear. It takes at least 15 more days for the flowers to mature.
Bhuiyan further added that farmers will be able to harvest their crops from April.
RabiulHaqueMajumder, deputy director of the Brahmanbaria Department of Agricultural Extension, said, "We have given fertilizers and seeds as an incentive to motivate the farmers to cultivate sunflowers. We have been doing regular supervision since the seeds were planted. If the weather is good, the yield will be good this time."
"Many farmers themselves grind oil seeds in the mill while many prefer to sell the seeds to oil companies. We hope to get oil seeds worth over Tk7 crore this year," Majumdar added.
While talking to The Business Standard, Babul Elahi, a farmer from Singarbil village of Bijayanagarupazila, said he has planted sunflower seeds on around seven bighas of land and 90% of the trees have bloomed already.
"After talking to the agriculture department, I will decide whether to sell oil or the oilseeds," he added.
Borhan Uddin, another farmer of Bijayanagar'sNalgaria village, said he is cultivating sunflowers on three bighas of land this year. Earlier he used to cultivate various vegetables in these lands but this year, with the help of the department of agriculture, he is cultivating sunflowers for the first time.
"If the yield is good, I will cultivate it every year," Borhan added.
While visiting the fields, tourists were spotted flocking to the sunflower gardens, which put the farmers somewhat in a fix. Many visitors pluck the flowers, to prevent which farmers have to guard the fields.
Sumon Ray, a tourist, said photos of sunflower fields have gone viral on social media, which is attracting more sightseers.
Apart from Brahmanbaria, sunflower cultivation has started in several other districts of the country including Shariatpur, Kurigram and Nilphamari.