Agriculture Minister Mohammad Abdur Razzaque today said it is necessary to cultivate unconventional cash crops, including almonds, coffee and black pepper, in order to make agriculture profitable.

There is a huge demand for these cash crops not only in the country but also in the international market and the prices are also high, he said after inspecting almond orchards, coffee orchards and other fruit orchards in Ruma upazila of Bandarban.

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That is why the cultivation and processing of these crops should be increased, the minister said.

“We are working to innovate improved varieties and technologies of almonds and coffee and to spread the cultivation of these crops more widely. If this can be done, it will revolutionise the economy of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. ¬†And there will be a spectacular improvement in the quality of life of the people in the hilly areas,” he said.

At the same time, by meeting the demand of the country, a lot of foreign exchange can be earned by exporting abroad, Razzaque added.

The minister said the country is currently producing almonds and coffee on a small scale.

So not just the hilly regions, but also the areas, which are not being cultivated at present and where there is a lot of potential, will also be brought under almonds and coffee cultivation in phases across the country, Razzaque said.

To this end, a project –‘Research, Development and Expansion of Almond and Coffee’ — worth Tk 211 crore has been taken up recently, he added.

“We are providing free improved varieties of seedlings, technology and advice to farmers and entrepreneurs to popularize the cultivation of these non-conventional crops,” he said adding that 1.56 lakh almond saplings were given to farmers free of cost last year and 3 lakh saplings will be given this year.

Besides, the tax rate on raw almond imports has been reduced to only 5 per cent from 90 per cent to alleviate the problem of processing of almonds in the country and to build processing facilities, the agriculture minister said.

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