POST TIME: 10 August, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Bumper pineapple production in Madhupur
Growers demand processing centre, cold storage
Our Correspondent, Tangail

Bumper pineapple production in Madhupur

This recent photo shows a partial view of Jalchatra pineapple market in Madhupur upazila of Tangail district. INDEPENDENT PHOTO

Despite a bumper pineapple harvest in Madhupur zone this season, the growers are unhappy over the absence of any processing centre, specialised cold storage and marketing facilities. According to the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), about 28,000 acres of land have been taken for pineapple farming in Madhupur. About 22,500 acres of land have been brought under pineapple farming in Tangail district, of which 18,750 acres are in Madhupur upazila alone. Madhupur upazila agriculture officer  Mahmudul Hasan said that the GaintsKue variety is grown largely in the Madhupur zone. About 500 acres of land have been brought under the Honey Queen variety.

About 209,512 metric tonnes of pineapples have been produced in Madhupur in the current season. Growers say it costs Tk. 10-12 to produce a pineapple. Big pineapples are being sold for Tk. 25 a piece, medium ones for Tk. 15 and small ones for Tk. 5. Besides, farmers have to bear Tk. 4-5 as transport and harvesting cost.

Anisur Rahman Hira, secretary of the Madhupur Truck Drivers' and Covered Van Union, said about 200 trucks and mini-trucks carry the fruit from Madhupur to other districts daily. About 100 trucks are loaded from the Jalchatra Bazaar, the country’s biggest pineapple market.

But local consumers are concerned as various chemicals, excessive insecticides, fertilisers, hormones and formalin are used in pineapple cultivation these days. Ripen, Tom-tom, Denofix, Superfix and chemicals of about 100 different types have flooded the pineapple-growing areas.

Farmers said the lifecycle of a pineapple is impacted by the use of hormones. Carbide is used for ripening and formalin for preservation.

Golam Mustafa, a farmer of Zangalia village, told The Independent that wholesalers from different districts like to buy coloured pineapples. To attract consumers, the farmers use growth hormones. Besides, formalin is used to prevent rotting for 10–15 days after harvesting.

Abdul Aziz of Ghatail upazila, a national award winning farmer, said that growers are not aware of the effects of hormone and formalin. Chemical companies press the farmers to use chemicals that should be banned.

Dr Md Abu Jobayer, a professor at the food technology and nutrition department of Mowlana Bhashani University, said: “Hormones and formalin are harmful for humans. The pineapple contains Vitamin C, carotene, minerals, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus, all of which protect the body from diseases. It contains fibre, which helps digestion.”

A tribal leader of Madhupur, Ajoy A Mree, said that owing to an excessive use of chemicals, fertilisers and insecticides, jackals, other animals, and insects do not eat even ripe pineapples lying in the field.  Mdhupur UNO Romendra Nath Biswas told The Independent that traders and farmers spray chemicals on pineapples openly. The upazila administration conducted several anti-adulteration drives and seized the spraying machines and fined the users.

Agriculture scientists say they have developed a form of harmless hormone. But farmers are not aware of it. DD of DAE of Tangail, Abdur Razzaque, told The Independent they are motivating farmers not to use harmful chemicals. He said the response was positive this year. There hax been a 40 per cent reduction in the use of harmful drugs, he claimed.

An overdose of chemicals in pineapple production kills the fruit’s flavour, said Mahmudul Hasan. The Hortex Foundation would export organically grown pineapples to European Union countries from the next season, he added.

Ali Akbor, president of Idilpur Pineapple Growers’ Cooperative Society, demanded proper marketing facilities, processing centres and specialised cold storage for pineapples. He said pineapples have a good market at home and abroad. Raw pineapples could be exported to the Middle East and to some European countries, he added. A private processing factory is in operation in Madhupur. But it buys pineapples on a small scale.

Besides pineapple, guava, jackfruit, lemon, olive, banana, and mango are grown in large quantities in Madhupur and other upazilas of Tangail. A well-organised processing industry can take care of these fruits as well.

Private entrepreneurs have not come forward to establish cold storages because of complex bank loan procedures, lack of gas supply and erratic power quality. Every year about 15 per cent of the total production is damaged due to the lack of storage facilities.

Pineapple growers of Madhupur want the government to set up a pineapple research centre and a processing centre in the area. They also demand proper marketing facilities.