More than 150 nurseries in Lakshmipur are producing around two crore saplings of different tree species annually, which have a market value of over Tk100 crore, as the demand for these seedlings has increased in recent years thanks to the government's tree plantation campaign.
People concerned said these nurseries have triggered a silent revolution in the district in the production of fruits and timber.
If the nurseries could be provided improved varieties of seeds and saplings through government agencies, the district would be able to be self-reliant in fruit and timber production in the next 5-10 years, they added.
Md Mamunur Rashid set up Sundarban Nursery in Dalalbazar, Lakshmipur Sadar, on around three acres of land several years ago. Currently, the nursery produces around five lakh saplings worth Tk50 lakh annually.
"The demand for saplings of fruit trees is the highest in the district. We also sell saplings for trees that produce good timber including Meheguni, Segun, Garjan etc," he added.
Al-Amin Nursery in the Chandraganj area of sadar upazila produces saplings of many foreign fruit trees including coconut trees from Thailand, Vietnam and India's Kerala. They also produce saplings of 25 local fruit trees.
Nur Uddin, owner of Al-Amin Nursery in the Chandraganj area of Sadar upazila, said, "Currently, I have around one lakh saplings of different fruit trees with a market price of around Tk70 lakh. Most of my customers are owners of small nurseries and local individuals."
He, however, said he has never got any training or counselling from any government agencies regarding nursery maintenance.
"The practice of tree planting has become very common among the people of Lakshmipur. Currently, we need more trees of improved varieties of fruits and timber. For this, we need help from the government agencies," he added.
Many nursery owners also complained that they are not getting enough services from the only government nursery in the district named Lakshmipur Beej Tala Kendra.
The nursery has been built on four acres of land in the Dalalbazar area of the sadar upazila. But it currently produces very few saplings.
Alaudding Saju, a local resident, said, "The nursery was once very productive. But it's in a very bad condition now due to poor maintenance. It has the capacity of producing more than five lakh saplings annually."
Chandan Bhowmik, range officer of the nursery, said, "We still produce some saplings here in this nursery. We have six employees now."
Rising commodity prices in the country have recently shot up production costs for the nursery owners in Lakshmipur. They said that the prices of soil, plastic packets, fertiliser, pesticide everything have gone up.
Anwar Hossain, owner of Mayer Doa Nursery, said he has collected 5,000 cubic metres of soil for his nursery recently with an increased price. He complained that it is hard to find enough space for selling seedlings in the local markets. "Even if we find some space, we need to pay a large amount of money for toll and duty to the authorities."
Nursery owners also complained that the forest department and the department of agriculture do not oversee the booming nursery business in the district, and that some people are selling substandard saplings taking advantage of this.
As a result, although the numbers of fruit and timber trees in the district are increasing, people are not getting the expected yield from those trees.
Md Zakir Hossain, deputy director of the Department of Agricultural Extension, Lakshmipur, said that about 120 nurseries have licences in the district, but the department has not got exact information on the number of nurseries here.
He said that the nurseries in the district need monitoring and support with good seeds to produce improved varieties of timber and fruits.
Nur Uddin, one of the leaders of Laxmipur district Nursery Owners' Association, said about 3,000 people are employed in nursery business in the district.