Diversification of crops  

Neil Ray   | Published: December 02, 2018 22:06:26 | Updated: December 03, 2018 21:15:20

One of the reasons why this country is earning esteem from the outside world is its buoyant economy. But the economy could have a firm footing only because of its success in agriculture output. Today farmers have proved their resourcefulness in more ways than their forefathers could think of -- cultivating unheard-of crops and fruits - even a couple of decades back. True, there is still a complaint that farmers are more interested in cultivation of paddy -the nation's staple food than other crops such as lentil and oil seeds. But it must be admitted too that some enterprising farmers have been exploring new areas of farming. Thus success stories of cultivation of exotic crops or fruits by farmers are making their rounds quite frequently.

If orange and mosambi (sweet lime) orchards are experimentally developed by a few enthusiastic farmers, other adventurous band proves cultivation of dragon fruits or avocadoes commercially highly profitable. However, it is not clear if the cultivation of straw berries and plums developed by the Bangladesh Agriculture University and named bau kul has suffered any setback. For quite a few years, plum cultivation was received warmly by farmers because of high yield and profit. But last year the supply of the fruit was scanty. So was the case with straw berries. Once fetching Tk 1,000 a kilogram, the fruit had at times a market price as low as Tk 200 a kilogram. But this past year, locally produced straw berries were rarely visible in the street corners of this capital -a usual sight at least for two consecutive years before.         

When flower cultivation has proved commercially viable for a good number of farmers in some select areas of the country, fruits like plum and straw berries should not have lagged behind if growers faced no problem in their cultivation. The country's economy has reached a point where local consumers can afford at least some of the pricey exotic fruits. If the super stores or department stores -although the number of such outlets is still limited-import highly costly fruits, it must be understood that there are customers who do not bother about the price tags. So here is not a case of dull market but one of production problem.

Capsicum and broccoli have got a market in the capital and other cities. Yet it must be admitted that exotic vegetables like these are yet to enjoy popularity among the general public. There is every chance that many people even do not know about their use as foods. Yet, it must be admitted that food habit of many in the cities is getting diversified with the diversification of cropping. Unless a variety of crops - vegetables and fruits to be precise - are locally raised, experiments with gastronomic adventure are impossible - least of all making those popular. A rising economy, however, loves to do such experiments on a regular basis. This is why cooking programmes on TV channels have become very popular now.

Farmers are, however, not concerned about whether city people are set to make a revolution happen on the food front. All they take serious note of is if the crop they are going to cultivate will leave them a profit margin -hefty or moderate. The common pattern among the majority of farmers is thus to stick to the crops with proven profit, however small it may be. Time and again, they experience a slump in price of their perishable produces and still they cannot change the gear much. At times they have to dispose of their produces at throw-away prices. On certain occasions they have to feed their cattle instead of taking the produce to market because the transport cost is more than the items' selling price.

So, there is need for planning for patterns of cropping under supervision of agriculture extension offices at the field level. Excessive supply of a crop in the market leaves farmers ruined on account of atrocious price slump.     

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