Farmers in the Rangpur region have switched to cultivating mustard after a drastic drop in potato prices in recent years. Mustard has proven to be a profitable crop in northen districts.
The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) and The Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture say potatoes were cultivated on 2.75 lakh hectares of land in eight northern districts including Rangpur between 2007 and 2019.
However, a fall in potato prices from 2011 to 2014 triggered a loss of interest in potato farming.
Farmers claimed that they incurred losses in potato cultivation as the production cost has surged, but mustard farming is cost-effective and gives them a higher profit.
"I earned more from mustard cultivation in the last two years than I did with potatoes," said Badsha Mia, a farmer of Chandipur village in Pirgachha upazila, who used to grow potatoes three years ago.
Farmer Saiful Islam of the Deuti area in the same upazila has been cultivating mustard alongside potatoes for the last eight years.
"I cultivate the Hybrid-7 variety of mustard on three bighas (0.48 hectare) of land by spending Tk75,000. I am expecting a net profit of between Tk1.5 lakh to Tk2 lakh," he said.
The cultivation of mustard is easier compared to that of potatoes because mustard requires only one or two irrigations, said Shamsul Alam, a farmer from Dhap Shyampur village under Mithapukur upazila, who is cultivating mustard on 2.50 bighas (0.40 hectare) of land at a cost of Tk45,000.
If the weather remains favourable, I expect a yield of 80 to 85 maunds of mustard and three times the profit over the investment," he hoped.
Some farmers said they chose mustard cultivation because the seeds do not need fertiliser or insecticide.
Talking to The Business Standard, Shah Alam, additional director of DAE in the Rangpur region said farmers have cultivated mustard on 33,940 hectares of land in five districts of the region this season.
Farmers will increase production and make more profit if they follow the one-level agriculture system, he said.
Agriculture officials have been encouraging farmers to cultivate mustard between the gap of the Aman and the Boro paddy.
There has been a gradual rise in mustard cultivation in northen districts since 2014.
According to the DAE, mustard was cultivated on 1.32 lakh hectares of land in 16 northern districts in 2012, and this increased to 2.49 lakh hectares in 2013. In 2014 it was 2.57 lakh hectares and in 2015 it was 2.77 lakh hectares. About 2.78 lakh hectares of land was used for mustard cultivation in 2016, and this became 2.37 lakh hectares in 2018 and 2.65 lakh hectares in 2019.
The local agriculture office said the region set a target to produce 3 lakh 75 thousand tonnes of mustard this year, valued at Tk82.5 crore, which is essential for the economic progress of the region.
Around five lakh hectares of land is suitable for mustard cultivation in the northern region of the country. If the crop cultivation is planned properly, the production will be large, and it will be possible to meet the growing demand, officials said.
Farmers in northern districts were struggling to recover losses, so they chose mustard instead of potatoes. They are also expecting good yield of the crop following BINA Dhan-7 , Binasarisha-7 and boro paddy.
Mustard cultivation starts in mid-November and the harvest will continue till the last week of January. Farmers can cultivate the boro paddy after harvesting the mustard crop. On average 28 maunds of mustard is produced per acre of land, and mustard seeds can be sold for Tk2000-Tk2500 per maund.
The deputy director of the DAE at Rangpur zone, Md Moniruzzaman, said most of the land in the northern districts are covered with varieties of mustard. Farmers expect a good harvest. Mustard cultivation is increasuing day by day in the region as it brings good profit.