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Coffee can be money-spinner for most farmers in CHT

But they badly need a processing plant now
Shantimoy Chakma, Rangamati

Farmers in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) have found a wonder crop. They have harvested coffee from plants sown five years ago, thanks to the efforts by CHT Development Board (CHTDB). The farmers are upbeat because of the returns and its easy cultivation process.

But their enthusiasm is somehow dampened as there is no plant to process the harvested coffee for marketing. They did the processing in their own way, using indigenous methods. But they are still encouraged as the yield is satisfactory and the price is higher than other crops.

Talking to this correspondent some farmers in Khagrachhari and Bandarban said it is much more profitable than traditional crops like pineapple and other fruits, ginger and rice.

“I earned Tk 4,500 by selling 15 kilograms of coffee last winter. I hope I will get more this year”, said Nur Hossain of Barpilak village in Ramgarh upazila in Khagrachhari district.

Hossain is a rehabilitated farmer who got three acres of hilly land from the government. As the lands are not suitable for rice cultivation, Hossain raised a mixed garden of pineapples, guava and other fruits.

He planted 20 coffee seedlings, given for free by the CHTDB to promote its cultivation.

Debainya Chakma, another rehabilitated farmer in Babuchhara village in Dighinala upazila in Khagrachhari district is also very happy with his experimental coffee cultivation.

“All the plants are very lively due to sufficient rain now and if the weather remains favourable, my coffee plants are sure to earn a good amount, much more than I can expect from pineapple”, he said.

Farmers in Bandarban also said they prefer coffee because it is not perishable like pineapple, guava and other fruits.

The CHTDB distributed the coffee saplings in 2001 under a Tk 1288 crore rehabilitation programme.

Over 450 households including 100 Bangalee settlers have so far been rehabilitated in eight upazilas of Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban on 1350 acres of government land since 1999, said project director Md. Shafiqul Islam.

They were supplied with saplings of coffee, orange, pineapple, banana, papiya, safeda, mango (amropali) and litchi to raise mixed garden, he told this correspondent.

Among all the crops, coffee proved most profitable for farmers, he said.

Shafiqul Islam said about 400 kilograms of coffee were produced in the three hill districts last year. The yield may be between 2, 000 and 3,000 kilograms in the coming harvesting season, he added.

The region can be turned into a coffee producing area, which will change the lot of the poor people, he said.

He however said lack of processing plant is a major hurdle. In the coming harvesting season, the yield will increase but farmers will not get the full benefit only for want of processing facility, he said. He said CHTDB may consider setting up of a small coffee processing plant depending on the yield and farmers’ response in future. A small processing equipment is available in India at between Tk 20,000 and 30,000, sources said.

A coffee plant bears fruits four to five years after plantation and the yield continues 15 to 20 years, agriculture officials said, adding, land in CHT hills is suitable for coffee cultivation.

Branches of a plant bent with green coffee at a garden in Khagrachhari. PHOTO: STAR

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