Malta plants live for 20 years and they are less expensive to produce than guava
Aminul Islam of Godagari in Rajshahi is cultivating malta on 7.22 hectares of land in Bottoli of Gogram union. He is in partnership with four others.
They bought saplings in Narsingdi in 2017 and started cultivating malta on around four hectares of land for the first time. At present, they have some 4,500 malta trees.
They are expecting to sell malta at a better price this year.
Aminul Islam said, "We used to cultivate guava. Suddenly, I decided to cultivate malta as those plants live longer than guava plants. The guava plants that we used to grow commercially lasted for three years."
Meanwhile, malta plants live for 20 years, production costs are lower and they need a lower amount of pesticides as well, he added.
"Initially, if you spend Tk60,000 on 0.16 hectares of land, then there is no cost other than maintenance. However, this year we lost 400 trees due to cyclone Amphan, and had to replant those trees," said Aminul Islam.
Hundreds of farmers like Aminul are now cultivating malta commercially in the Barind region of Rajshahi.
The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) is also considering this sector as a new possibility for the country.
Local varieties of green malta are available on the market. These malta are sold at a retail price of Tk100-120 per kilogramme.
According to the DAE, malta cultivation first started in 2016 in the Barind region of Rajshahi. At present, malta is being cultivated on 148 hectares of land in the district.
Sources said the yield was 222 tonnes in the 2019-2020 financial year. Of those, most of the malta is cultivated in Godagari on 102 hectares of land.
Malta cultivation is increasing every year. In the Barind region, Bari Malta 1, a local variety with sweet flavor, is cultivated.
Rafiqul Islam of Pirijpur in Godagari is cultivating malta on 0.28 hectares of land. Last year, he earned Tk52,000 from selling malta. In this year, he has sold malta worth around Tk42,000.
"After starting malta cultivation in 2017, I sold malta for the first time last year for Tk52,000. The production was not satisfactory then. However, the production has been good this year," said Rafiqul Islam.
So far he has sold 560 kilogrammes of malta. He sold all the malta to Dhaka at Tk90 per kilogramme, and has already made a profit of Tk50,000–excluding all expenses.
Md Mahbub, another farmer of Gogram, said he has 1,230 mature malta trees on his 3.21 hectares of land.
This year, he has sold 600 kilogrammes of malta to traders in Dhaka and Narayanganj at Tk80-100 per kilogramme. He is expecting to sell 400 kilogrammes more.
Sajjad Hossain is cultivating malta on 0.60 hectares of land in Nagarpara of Rajshahi city area. Last year, he harvested 1,200 kilogrammes of malta from this garden. He expects to sell up to 2,000 kilogrammes of malta this year.
"Malta cultivation is a profitable business, but it needs proper attention. If the trees do not get the right care, there is a risk of virus infection–the trees turn yellow and die," he said.
Shamsul Haque, deputy director of the Rajshahi DAE, said malta cultivation needs highly careful farmers.
"Malta needs more attention as it is a very sensitive fruit. This is why we are urging conscious farmers to cultivate malta," he said.
If the cultivation continues with great care, this fruit will add new possibilities in the financial development in the Barind region, he added.