Khairul Islam, 26, is a proud banana farmer from rural Rajshahi who has made Tk8 to 10 lakh, annually, since joining the business ten years ago.
At least a hundred more young farmers like Khairul have been enjoying high business-prospects with bananas at Rajshahi's wholesale markets. Many cultivate bananas on their own land, in pond-side areas, or on fallow land – while many others are resorting to leasing land.
Many farmers use their own land or lease land, highlighting the bright prospects the banana business holds in Rajshahi. Khairul uses his five-bigha land to cultivate bananas and – to increase his profits – has procured 10 thousand additional banana trees on lease for Tk15 lakh.
He brings around 500 hands of bananas every week to the Baneshwar banana haat (wholesale market) in Rajshahi. He also sells bananas at the Baya Haat in Paba, his home upazila. In summer, he earns a maximum Tk600 per hand of banana, but in winter, the price drops slightly.
Md Dulal, from Katakhali upazila of Rajshahi, has 800 banana trees on his two-bigha land and makes at least Tk2 lakh profit every year. His production cost is also low as he uses cow dung from his dairy farm as manure – saving on the cash needed for fertiliser.
"A minimal investment is needed at the beginning of cultivation. A banana sapling worth Tk10 must be purchased, and, after it bears fruit, it is cut down to generate more saplings at no additional cost," he said.
"Banana plantations do not cause hassles and tension. The profit from the fruit's cultivation is quite high while the process is risk-free," he added.
Abdur Razzak, also from Paba upazila, sold bananas worth Tk13 lakh in 2018 and was expecting to increase sales in 2019. He has 7.5 thousand banana trees beside the 26 ponds on lease.
Moksed Ali, from Durgapur upazila, claims he achieved economic self-sustenance through banana cultivation, as he sells more than a thousand hands of bananas, per week, at four different wholesale markets in Rajshahi – including the popular Baneshwar and Jhalmalia haats.
These two banana wholesale markets in Rajshahi are held twice a week. Baneshwar haat is held every Saturday and Tuesday while Jhalmalia haat is held every Friday and Monday.
Wholesalers buy bananas from the farmers at these markets and sell them for businesses in Dhaka, Narayanganj and other parts of the country.
At every session of the Baneshwar haat, on average, bananas worth at least Tk40 to 60 lakh is sold – where each hand of bananas is priced at Tk400. If the value of business at both sessions of the haat in a week are combined, the total surpasses one crore taka.
Farmers supply about 10 to 15 thousand bananas to each haat session. The supply is relatively low in winter and peaks in summer. Ten to 15 trucks transport bananas from the haat, every week, to the capital Dhaka and other districts.
On December 24, The Business Standard visited the haat and saw booming business activities, and the haat wrapped up as early as 9:00 am, after starting in the wee hours. The haat was held in the Shibpur area beside the Dhaka-Rajshahi Highway.
Mozammel Haque, a wholesaler at Baneshwar haat told The Business Standard that at every session of the haat, on average, he buys two thousand hands of bananas from the farmers. Every week he sends three banana-laden trucks to Dhaka.
Shamsul Haque, deputy director of the Rajshahi Department of Agricultural Extension said bananas are cultivated throughout Rajshahi but the Puthia, Durgapur and Charghat upazilas are the most productive in the district.
In 2019, 63 thousand tonnes of bananas with a Tk300 crore market value were produced on 1.9 hectares of land in Rajshahi, Shamsul added.