Lilium, a flower from the countries of cold weather, has brought commercial potential for farmers in Bangladesh thanks to its high demand in domestic as well as international markets.
A number of farmers in some districts have already started commercial cultivation of this flower after a team of researchers from the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (Bari) released two varieties of the flower for farming.
Agricultural officials said work is underway to expand the cultivation of Lilium by training farmers in different parts of the country.
The farmers have seen success in commercial cultivation of Lilium and they intend to cultivate the flower on a larger scale in the future.
Lilium is popular all over the world. Even though the main habitat of this flower is in Asia, Europe and North America, it is more common in China, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, the Netherlands, India and a few other countries.
Lilium, which grows from a bulb, is an annual perennial plant as it lives more than two years. Asiatic, Oriental, Martagon, Pseudolirium are the most popular varieties of the Lilium genus – all with large prominent flowers.
Farmers cultivate the plant by making shades with nets in different seasons depending on the temperature. The flowers are ready to harvest within 100-120 days of the planting of the tuber or bulb.
Nazneen Afroz, a researcher in the Department of Horticulture at Bari, said, "Sheds are needed for Lilium cultivation in Bangladesh. Dung manure and cocoa dust are mixed in equal proportions with the soil."
Nazneen said, "A team of researchers from our department started research on Lilium in 2015. After researching on 30 germplasms of the Asiatic variety, they have so far released two climate-friendly varieties."
Another researcher, Karimatul Ambia, said the two varieties developed by Bari do not suffer much from diseases. Insect attacks are also low.
"The presence of blight insects in the leaves of these flowers were seen during research which can be easily controlled. But, due to a lack of cold storage, there are limitations in preserving the bulbs," she said.
Abdul Quader, a farmer from Panda Dighi village in Rangpur Sadar has been cultivating flowers since 2013 and has a flower shop named Madhabi Phul Bitan at the corner of the Chiriakhana intersection of the city, said he has counted a loss of Tk15 lakh due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, he has cultivated Lilium in his garden this year which has shown some promise of profit.
Abdul Quader said he sold 4,000 Lilium flowers on 21 February and Valentine's Day. He sold each flower at Tk100-160 to the traders of Dhaka. Then they sold it to the flower lovers at Tk200 to 250 each.
This year, Abdul Quader's flower sales amounted to Tk28 lakh. Flowers worth Tk4-5 lakh are still in his garden.
He said the cost of cultivating 4,000 Lilium seedlings including land preparation, fertiliser, labour costs was Tk10 lakh. Apart from him, 22 more farmers are involved in the cultivation of Lilium flowers in the area.
Abdur Rashid, a farmer from Gangachara village in the same district, said Lilium flowers are very profitable. He said he has a garden on one acre of land.
In the beginning, he cultivated various flowers including roses and marigold in the garden, but this time he has cultivated Lilium on a 1.5-decimal plot on a commercial basis.
He got bulbs of Lilium for free from the agricultural research institute three months ago for cultivation. He planted 300 bulbs and has already sold 200 Lilium flowers.
"It cost Tk6,000 to plant Lilium on 1.5 decimals of land. I have already sold flowers worth Tk15,000," he said.
Dr Kabita Anjuman Ara, director (Tuber Crop Research) of Bari, said, "Lilium is a very popular flower among flower lovers in Bangladesh. Lilium is sold at a price of Tk80-250 on special days including New Year, 21 February, Victory Day, Independence Day.
"Researchers of Bari have come forward for more cultivation of the flower at the field level."
SM Sharifuzzaman, director (Services and Supplies) of Bari, said, "The horticulture department of Bari is conducting research on more than 200 flower crops and various flowers are being cultivated commercially across the country."
The agriculture official said commercial cultivation of Lilium has already started in Jashore, Rangpur, Dhaka and a few other districts.
The horticulture has released 21 varieties of flowers for farmers, he added.
"Farmers are becoming more interested in floriculture than ever before due to its commercial potential. Farmers are also being trained to cultivate flowers."
According to the agriculture officials, at least 5 lakh farmers have been involved in floriculture in different parts of the country. Flowers worth over Tk800 crore are being sold every year on various occasions.