Cultivation of soybean on char lands in Lakshmipur during monsoon, which is not the regular cultivation season, has proved to be successful, solving the crop's seed crisis.
Though December-January is the regular soybean cultivation season, in the last three to four years, farmers have been cultivating it on char lands in September-October and getting a very good yield.
According to soybean traders and Lakshmipur District Agriculture Extension Department, about 10,000 tonnes of soybean produced on char land is worth about Tk200 crore.
Belal Hossain Khan, deputy director of the department, said that this year, soybean would be cultivated on 42,000 hectares of land in Lakshmipur district, excluding char land. 2,730 tonnes of seeds would be needed, he added.
After meeting local demand (in the district), seeds produced on chars will be sold to farmers in other parts of the country.
However, the district agriculture department has no official data on soybean production on char land.
Around 5,000 landless farmers of 10 to 12 chars, including Char Kachhiya, Kanibogar Char, Tunur Char, Khasiyar Char, Char Gachhiya and Char Induria on the Meghna River in Roypur upazila and Meghar Char of Lakshmipur Sadar upazila are engaged in soybean farming.
Farmers have been harvesting and selling soybean since the middle of December last year.
Shahjahan Pike, a farmer in Kanibogarh Char, said 100 percent of the newly harvested seeds have already sprouted.
Therefore, farmers were buying the new seeds at a higher price, he added.
On the other hand, Nurul Alam, deputy director at Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (Feni, Noakhali and Lakshmipur region), said that only 60 percent of dried seeds had sprouted.
BADC has sold only 26 tonnes of soybean seed in three districts between December 2020 and January 2021.
There were no more seeds left in stock, said Nurul.
Although BADC's seeds were selling for less than Tk100, farmers were not buying them, the official added.
Upon visiting Mollarhat and Panirghat Bazars in Char Gachhiya, old, dried seeds were seen to be selling at Tk100 per kg, while new, raw seeds were priced at Tk180 -Tk210 per kg.
Farmer Quader Hawlader said he sold 400 kg of soybean seed at Tk200 per kg on Tuesday.
Furthermore, he said that the production had declined this year due to high tidal surges on the chars on several occasions. He still got 1,000 kg of soybean from 0.809371 hectares of land (two acres).
Mohin, a seed trader from Noakhali's Subarnachar upazila, said he had bought four tonnes of soybean at Tk1,90,000 per tonne (the price per kg is Tk190). He will sell the seeds to retailers at a profit of Tk5 per kg.
According to Muhammad Mohiuddin Chowdhury, chief scientific officer of the Noakhali Region Research Department of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), soybean was cultivated on three to four lakh hectares of land in 72 upazilas of at least 33 districts in Bangladesh.
Around 10 lakh tonnes of soybean were produced annually, of which 60 percent was produced in Lakshmipur, he said.
The main issue in soybean production was seeds, Mohiuddin said.
However, he hoped soybean seeds produced in the chars this year would take the country a step forward in solving the seed crisis.
The agriculture development corporation sells mainly two varieties of soybean seeds invented by Bangabandhu Agricultural University; three varieties invented by Bangladesh Atomic Agriculture Research, and one variety invented by Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute.
In addition to these varieties, farmers have a local soybean variety called Sohag.
The main source of soybean seeds is the preservation of local varieties by farmers.
Atiquzzaman, programme manager of a Netherlands-based non-governmental organization Solidaridad, said that soybean is used in making about 50 kinds of feed in Bangladesh, including poultry and floating fish feed.
Md Ismail Bepari, a wholesaler of soybeans in Kamalnagar upazila, said dried soybeans, not used for cultivation, costs Tk50 per kg.
Being at the forefront of soybean production in Bangladesh, the government has categorized the coastal district of Lakshmipur as Soya Land.
According to WorldAtlas, Bangladesh is the 35th largest soybean producer in the world.
Lakshmipur is the main soybean producing district in Bangladesh.