The fruit arrived around 2013
The moment Abu Taleb tasted dragon fruit for the first time two years ago, he immediately knew it was something special.
On a sunny day in 2019, his farm in Faridpur treated a visiting foreign team with the pink coloured fruit with juicy flesh and black seeds inside.
The fruit being quite rare in the local markets, he and his colleagues had them too.
That was the day a highly impressed Taleb decided to move to his village Kamalabari Battala in Lalmonirhat’s Aditmari upazila, determined to go for commercial cultivation of the fruit, which grows from cactus-like plants.
Two years down the line, the 38-year-old man now has a dragon fruit orchard on 3 bigha of land from which he hopes to sell fruits worth up to Tk10 lakh.
Taleb, head of a family of 12, with an average monthly income of Tk1 lakh, has so far earned Tk4 lakh from dragon fruit and its saplings.
His start was not as easy as he thought. He had to take several training sessions at the local agricultural extension department to learn more about the method of cultivation.
He also got useful instructions from farmers who cultivated the fruit in other districts.
With the help of his two brothers, he first planted 20,000 saplings which were collected from Natore.
Luck took his side. Although the plants were supposed to have fruits in one and half years, they started bearing fruit within 10-11 months.
Then Taleb began producing saplings as well, which he sold for Tk50 apiece. He earned Tk50,000 from that venture.
His orchard, first in the district, is now filled with dragon plants, its flowers and fruits. Curious people are flocking to see the orchard.
A beaming Taleb said: “Each plant can produce 12-15 kg of dragon fruit. I am selling it for Tk200-250 per kg from the orchard.”
He hoped that he would have a sale of Tk8-10 lakh from his orchard.
One could also make a profit selling the dragon fruit at Tk50 per kg from the orchard, he added.
Md Abdullah, a local farmer, said he bought 100 dragon saplings from Taleb in January and planted them.
He learned the cultivation method from him as well.
If successful like Taleb, he would start cultivating dragons on a large scale.
The farmer further said, ‘Long-term gross investment is required in dragon fruit cultivation. That is our major barrier. "
Shamim Ashraf, deputy director of the Lalmonirhat Agricultural Extension Department, said farmers are becoming interested in cultivating dragon fruit. Many have already started cultivating this fruit.
“The Department of Agriculture is also inspiring them to cultivate this foreign fruit providing them with necessary farming methods.
He added, ‘Dragon fruit cultivation only requires high lands free from waterlogging.
Along with proper care, this fruit cultivation needs a large capital, due to which many farmers are not able to cultivate even though they are interested.
Dragon fruit, which travelled from Central America to Asia, made its first arrival around 2013. Since then its cultivation began in the northern districts of Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Panchagarh and Nilphamari.
Now the fruit is hardly considered foreign. Its cultivation has spread in many parts of the country with the favourable tropical climate of Bangladesh.
Ancient Chinese legends say dragon fruit was created by a dragon in a battle when it spewed fire containing the fruit. Notwithstanding the legends, the fruit has come to stay in Bangladesh winning many hearts not only with its taste but also with the many vitamins it contains. It’s good for diabetes too, health experts say.