The tomato farming appeared as a fortune changer for many farmers as it made many peasants solvent in the region this year with also significantly infusing dynamism into the local economy.
Sources said, tens of thousands of farmers have become self-reliant through tomato farming only in Godagari Upazila of Rajshahi district.
In the current season, the cash crop has brought smiles on the face of the farmers as they are getting expected yield and market price since the very beginning of the harvesting period.
The tomatoes produced without chemicals are being sent to different districts including the capital Dhaka after meeting the local demands.
Many of the farmers are delighted over cultivating and harvesting chemical-free tomatoes.
Ziarul Islam, a farmer of Ishwaripur village said he has cultivated two hybrid varieties of tomato on one and a half bighas of land spending Taka one lakh.
In the last two weeks, he sold tomatoes worth Taka 30,000 and wholesalers, as well as retailers, are buying the tomatoes from his land at Taka 60-65 per kilogram.
Platform-cultivated tomato has a demand here as it becomes matured on plants and there is no need of using any chemical for ripening, he said.
Witnessing the success of Ziarul, many farmers have cultivated the cash crop using modern technology.
Saiful Islam, 47, a farmer of Pirijpur village under Godagari Upazila, said he has cultivated some high yielding varieties which have good demand in the markets.
He said tomatoes are being sold at Taka 1,800 to 2,000 per mound in wholesale markets at present.
Islam mentioned that the farmers are gradually being habituated in biorational pest management method instead of chemical one.
Jahedul Islam, another farmer of Bidirpur village under Godagari Upazila, said “Many farmers have already changed their fortunes through tomato cultivation in the region…they can earn between Taka 25,000 to Taka 35,000 by cultivating tomatoes on each bigha of land in a season.”
Ambia Ferdusi Khanam, a housewife living in Boaliapara of Rajshahi city, said although the early varieties of tomato are available in the local market, its price is very high. One kilogram of tomato is being sold at Taka 60 to 80 in local markets.
Tomato farming is gaining popularity in the region, particularly in the vast tract of Barind area, since its cultivation is seen profitable here, said Sirajul Islam, additional director of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Rajshahi.
The official said, cultivation of the cash crop has increased by five to six times during the last 15 to 20 years due to the introduction of high-yielding and hybrid varieties of tomatoes and modern technology.
Tomato, which is now considered as the second cash crop of the region, plays an important role in the economy, Sirajul Islam said.
More than one lakh families in the region are now getting direct financial benefit from either cultivating tomato or its trading, he added.
Remarkable numbers of employment are generated centring tomato farming and its trading every year.
Principal scientific officer of Fruit Research Station Dr Alim Uddin said the soil and climate condition of the entire region, including Rajshahi, Natore, Naogaon and Chapainawabganj, are very suitable for tomato cultivation.
So, it is now widely cultivated on the dry soil of the Barind area, he said.
Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) developed 10 high-yielding and quality varieties of tomatoes and it has been implementing special programmes to promote those among the growers through arranging farmers` training and demonstration plots in different areas, the official added.
He said the rates of production of the newly developed varieties are comparatively high and profitable than that of the domestic varieties.
Besides, different public and private commercial banks, especially Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank (Rakub), are giving credit to farmers to encourage them to cultivate tomatoes, reports BSS.