Bangladesh's maize production has doubled in just five years as increasingly more farmers are cultivating the crop owing to its low production cost, low risk of pest attack and high profit margin.
Maize farming has brought a big smile to the faces of farmers this year as both the cereal's production and price are good.
Once little known to farmers, maize continues gaining popularity – in Dinajpur, Rangpur, Bogura, and Chuadanga – amid rising demand propelled by a booming commercial animal feed industry.
In Bangladesh, the cereal is planted in two seasons – winter and summer – with the winter yield the largest of the two. However, farmers of the above districts said after a bumper yield last winter, their summer production is also looking good.
The Department of Agricultural Extension said nearly 60 percent of the summer maize has already been harvested.
Dinajpur Birol upazila farmer Mostafa Kamal told The Business Standard's district correspondent that he gets 60 to 70 maunds of maize, per bigha of land, worth around Tk35,000. The production cost for that is around Tk15,000-16,000.
Dinajpur Sadar upazila farmer Naresh Das said maize cultivation requires less effort and labour compared to other crops. Further, maize is threshed by machine.
He said maize now sells for about Tk15 per kilogram at the farm level. Additionally, other vegetables can be cultivated alongside the cereal.
The maize production target in Dinajpur was set at 7.31 lakh tonnes for the 2019-20 fiscal year while the crop has been cultivated across 70.66 hectares of land. Production of the cereal amounted to 7.23 lakh tonnes in the district last year.
In Rangpur, maize cultivation has covered 13,000 more hectares of land at five upazilas in the 2019-20 fiscal than the previous year, said Rangpur agriculture Director Mohammad Ali.
Many farmers of the district are switching to the crop from tobacco cultivation.
Mithapukur upazila farmer Abdus Salam told The Business Standard district correspondent that he profited more than Tk60,000 by cultivating the crop on four bighas of land this year. Bogura and Chuadhanga maize farmers echoed this to the respective The Business Standard district
Secretary to the agriculture ministry Mohammad Nasiruzzaman said maize production has doubled in the last five years.
"Production of the cereal has been rising gradually every year. I hope this year's production will surpass the target," said the secretary.
Meanwhile, agro-researchers said they are working on developing new maize varieties to boost production. Additionally, they are positive about developing new varieties with vitamins and provitamins for corn oil production.
Apart from meeting the demands of the animal feed industry, Wheat and Maize Research Institute Dinajpur says cultivation and expansion of the new varieties will help meet people's demand for vitamin A.
Scientific officer of the institute's Dinajpur office Dr Nur Alam said Bangladeshi scientists are working on edible oil production from maize. Meanwhile, the institute's Director General Dr Israil Hossain said they are working to develop food items from locally-grown maize.
"We import a lot of baby food every year. Cultivation of the newly developed varieties will enable the nation to cut back on imports," he added.
The institute has taken initiative to distribute high-quality seeds from next year to get quality production.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recent projection, Bangladesh corn production might rise in the 2020-21 marketing year and it can surpass 51 lakh tonnes.
The projection said that demand for corn in the feed industry may drop slightly owing to the Covid-19 pandemic cutting back on imports.