• 11 per cent increase of fruit production
• 10th in tropical fruit production
• 72 varieties cultivated in the country
• Per head consummation doubled
• 275,000 tonnes of guavas produced in 2007-08. 516,000 tonnes in current year
• 1 million tonnes of jackfruit cultivated per year
• Mango production growth increased by 16 per cent per year. Intake doubled in 10 years
Bangladesh marks the highest rate of increase in fruit production among the world's fruit producing countries. It is the tenth largest tropical fruit producer, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
Over the last 18 years the country’s fruit production has been increased by 11.5 per cent on an average, FAO estimates. It has also been among the top 10 largest countries to yield a number of significant fruits-- second in jackfruits, seventh in mangoes, eighth in guavas. Java plum (jaam), litchi, jujube, star fruit (kamranga), papaya, wood apple, lemon, pineapple, watermelon, lotkon (Burmese grape), custard apple, sapodilla (safeda) and melon are also included on the list of growing fruits.
Despite its limited geographical area and burgeoning population, Bangladesh has topped other countries to increase its fruit cultivation land by 10 per cent per year.
With the increased fruit yields, the consummation and variety have risen also. In 2018, the average fruit intake per head rose to 85 grammes from 55 grammes in 2006. The common fruits like mango and jackfruit have been replaced by at least 22 other fruit over the years.
The cultivation of nutritious fruits like dragon fruit, avocado, pomelo, watermelon, musk melon, lotkon, hog plum, amla have been largely increased over the last 4 to 5 years, most of which is sold within the country.
There has been a revolution in fruit farming in Bangladesh. Over the years, more and more fruit trees are being planted along roads and in yards. Commercial cultivation has increased over the last 10 years too, Sattar Mandal, former vice chancellor of Bangladesh Agriculture University, told Prothom Alo.
Fruits have contributed to the country's success in food security and had pushed it six places up in the world hunger index in three years, he added.
According to the agriculture ministry, around a decade ago 56 varieties of fruit were cultivated and now this stands at 72. Some 12 more varieties are being studied.
"We are encouraging better varieties of fruit for the optimum use of our limited area and currently 30 varieties of 11 fruits are being examined, Mehedi Masud, the director of the project on nutrition through year-round fruit production under DAE (Department of Agricultural Extension) said.
Though Bangladesh is the second largest jackfruit producer of the world, Japan, Malaysia and China do not import jackfruit from here due to its wild scent and stickiness. The DAE scientists are working on a new variety of jackfruit found in Rangamati.
“The non-sticky and fragrant jackfruit can be popular,” said M Kamaruzzaman, adviser of DAE fruit project.
According to FAO, over the last 18 years the rapid production of mango has been the highest in Bangladesh. The production has increased by 16 per cent per year and the per head consummation doubled over the last 10 years.
Around 2.4 million tonnes of mangoes were harvested in 2017-18.
The Himsagar, Gopalbhog, Langra, Fazli varieties from Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj were the main source of mangos once. But, the invention of Amropali a decade ago has cleared the way for cultivating mangos across the country. Around 40 per cent of the country’s total mango harvest are of Amropali which is cultivated most in the south and southwest part of the country.
In 2007-08, the production of guava was 275,000 tonnes which increased to 516,000 tonnes in 2017-18. Bangladesh exports guava and guava juice.
The most of the guavas of the country was cultivated in Swarupkathi, but now they are grown in the south and southwest parts too. About 70 per cent of the total production is of Thai variety.
According to the agriculture ministry, this year 12.1 million tonnes of fruits have been produced in the country which is 1.8 million tonnes more than 10 years before.
Most of the land used in fruit farming is for banana and then for mango, papaya and jackfruit. The fastest growing fruit crops are guava and litchi.
Cultivation of avocado, rambutan, strawberry, orange, coconut, dates, dragon fruit, figs, wood apple is also seeing a rapid growth.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Nusrat Nowrin.