The rapid expansion of dragon fruit cultivation in Bangladesh is benefiting both consumers and farmers as the once exotic fruit becomes widely available at reasonable prices.
The tropical fruit, known for its nutritious properties, has seen a significant drop in prices due to increased local production.
Locally produced dragon fruit is now available at Tk 200-250 per kg, down from its earlier prices ranging between Tk 350-600 per kg in Dhaka.
In contrast, imported dragon fruit still costs between Tk 600 and Tk 800 per kg. This abundant production has made the fruit, derived from cactus species, readily available in fruit shops and even through street vendors.
Dragon fruit, hailed as a tropical superfood due to its array of health benefits, has been gaining popularity in Bangladesh. Initially introduced on a small scale by enthusiastic orchard owners in 2009, dragon fruit farming gradually expanded to other parts of the country, fueled by its high demand and lucrative returns.
KJM Abdul Awal, Director of the Horticulture Wing of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), revealed that farmers can earn up to Tk 1 lakh per bigha of land by selling dragon fruit at Tk 50 per kg.
He noted that dragon fruit is relatively new globally, and production in Bangladesh now surpasses that of Vietnam and Thailand.
The statistics from DAE showcase a phenomenal growth in dragon fruit production over the years. From a modest 66 tonnes from 18 hectares in 2014-15, production surged to a staggering 13,872 tonnes from 1,115 hectares in 2021-22.
Abdul Awal also highlighted the three species of dragon fruit being cultivated in Bangladesh: Hylocereus Undatus (white and yellow-fleshed), Hylocereus Polyrhizus (red fleshed), and Hylocereus Costaricensis (red fleshed).
The fruit can be harvested up to 11 times a year, with the size varying due to weather conditions.
Md. Jamil, a dragon fruit farmer from Natore, shared his success story. He started cultivating dragon fruit on 3.5 bighas of land five years ago and has now expanded to 13 bighas.
Jamil earns Tk 4-5 lakh from each bigha by selling dragon fruit for Tk 150-200 per kg.
Similarly, Biplob Jahan from Harinakunda upazila in Jhenaidah district transformed 14 bighas into dragon fruit orchards over the last two years.
He was able to recoup his initial investment within the first year and continues to harvest bountifully.
The dragon fruit boom is inspiring many to convert traditional orchards into dragon fruit farms due to the potential for higher profits and quicker returns.
Experts suggest that not only is this boom in dragon fruit cultivation financially beneficial for the farmers, but it also holds the promise of earning foreign currency through exports.
Additionally, the availability of this nutritious fruit contributes to improving the dietary health of the population.