Tomato cultivation is playing a vital role in improving the economic condition of farmers in Rajshahi region, including its vast Barind tract.
"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," Abdur Rouf, a farmer of Dewpara village under Godagari Upazila, told BSS.
Although the early varieties of tomato are available in local market, its price is very high.
"One kilogram of tomato is being sold at Taka 80 in local market. And that's why it is beyond the purchasing capacity of lower and lower middle- income people, like us," said Ambia Ferdusi Khanam, a housewife living in Boaliapara of Rajshali city.
The wholesale price of a maund of tomato is now about Taka 2,500 to Taka 3,000, but its price will come down to Taka 100 per maund at the end of this season, tomato traders said.
Mustafizur Rahman, additional director of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), Rajshahi, said tomato farming is gaining popularity in the region, particularly in the vast tract of Barind area, since its cultivation is profitable here.
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.
Mustafizur Rahman said tomato, which is now considered as the second cash crop of the region, plays an important role in economy. More than one lakh families in the region are now getting direct financial benefit from either cultivating tomato or its trading, he said.
Dr Shakhawat Hossain, senior scientific officer of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI), said the soil and climatic 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."
Dr Hossain said 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 rates of production of the newly developed varieties are comparatively high and profitable than that of the domestic varieties, he said.
Besides, different public and private commercial banks, especially Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank (Rakub), are giving credit to farmers to encourage them to cultivate tomato.
President of Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industries Md Muniruzzaman said the farmers have to incur loss due to lack of storage facilities here while thousands of tonnes of tomato get perished every year.
He said it is an urgent to establish tomato processing plants to store the cash crop aiming to save tomato growers from financial loss.