The southern region of Bangladesh is blessed with fertile soil and abundant water. Farmers there are trying out diversified high value crops. The land of the South is the land of promise. Its soil, nature and everything around is just absolutely in the right tune for producing more and more. Along with it, farmers there are trying out different crops and doing it with great success. Couple of days back I went to Pirojpur’s West Durgapur, specifically to Dakatia village. The government has raised several malta orchards there. We all know popular fruit orange is traditionally cultivated in Sylhet. Now malta, another nutritious fruit, is catching many eyes in the southern part of Bangladesh. Betel nut and coconut are the cash crops for the farmers of Dakatia. Now, malta is taking the lead. The road to Dakatia is really poor and quite risky. The reason I’m here is to see the orchard of Reboti Sikder, an agricultural entrepreneur who claims his maltas are sweet like anything. I really would love to see that, in fact taste Reboti’s maltas. Reboti was waiting for me at his orchard. He hugged me as if he got paradise in his hand. But I had a short glance at his orchard when he was hugging me – and that orchard seemed to me to be the paradise. Ripe maltas covered all of Reboti’s orchard. “You have a lot of maltas,” was the first thing I said to Reboti. “This had been my dream. That I’ll have an orchard full of maltas,” said Reboti. “I am so happy that you are here,” he added.
Reboti has already sold maltas worth Tk 70,000. The maltas are sold across Pirojpur, Bagerhat and even sent to Dhaka. Following Reboti’s footsteps, other farmers have started malta orchards and the promising orchard number is ‘fifty.’ Reboti says there could be about 500 fruits on a three-year-old tree. The BARI 1 variety is really sweet, says Reboti. Those have circular sign at the bottom. Reboti is cultivating two varieties, BARI 1 and an Indian variety.
He’s earning more than from rice. Reboti is cultivating malta over 10 decimals of land, from where he has already sold maltas worth Tk 70,000. He still has maltas on the trees, worth Tk 30,000. And, you know what, his initial investment was only Tk 20,000. Some children were roaming around Reboti’s orchard. I called a couple of them to practically take a test on the taste of Reboti’s maltas. I gave four kids maltas and all of them said it’s really tasty, sweet and juicy. Then, I tried one, and believe me it’s the sweetest malta I have ever had in my life. I said, ‘kora mishty’ (extremely sweet). I realised that Pirojpur’s soil and water are great for malta cultivation. Agriculture extension officers are also advising the farmers about getting better production, but from the beginning it’s been a learning experience for the farmers and they exchanged the experiences with each other. Many other farmers say they feel free to take advice from Reboti and then implement them on the fields. Agricultural officials say many other malta orchards have been built near Dakatia, such as Nagarbari, Kochubunia, Dakkhin Jibogram, Dakkhin Gabtola, Jujhkhola, Kodomtola, Khanakuniyari, Pouroshobha, Namazpur, Pantadubi and Morichal. Mohammad Abul Hossain Talukder, deputy director of the Department of Agricultural Extension, highly appreciates the success of the farmers.
Dear readers, malta production in Pirojpur Sadar was started by a man named Amalesh Ray. When I was visiting Pirojpur he wasn’t there. I hope to see his orchard soon. It’s wonderful to see the expansion of such a fruit that is full of nutrition and vitamin C, and which is economically a much better crop for farmers. I believe that the neighbouring districts will start producing malta in a few years. I also believe that in this age of modern agriculture, malta can be cultivated anywhere in Bangladesh. We just need some dreamers like Reboti Sikder, who can take our country further ahead with innovation, creativity, indigenous knowledge, hard work and patience.