Agriculture Minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque on Saturday said cashew nut and coffee cultivation could bring a massive positive change in the socio-economic development in the hilly regions of the country.
To expand the cultivation of the two non-conventional cash crops, he said, the government has taken up a project worth Tk 2.11 billion.
Developed and suitable varieties of cashew nut and coffee are being provided to farmers adopting modern technology and research to expand cultivation of these crops vastly, Dr Razzaque said at a programme after visiting cashew nut, coffee and other fruit gardens at Ruma in Bandarban.
The government has taken up a five-year project titled 'Cashew nut, coffee research, development and expansion' aiming to increase the acreage threefold by 2025.
To make agriculture profitable, the minister said, it is necessary to cultivate unconventional cash crops including cashew nut, coffee, black pepper and others.
These crops have a huge demand both in the domestic and international market, he added.
Following the demand, he said, it is very possible to raise their production in Bangladesh as the weather condition of the country is suitable for such plants.
Expansion of such crops in the hilly regions could bring revolutionary changes in the socio-economic condition of hilly people of Chattogram division through reducing poverty as well as providing necessary nutrition as well, he said.
"We are providing improved varieties of saplings and other inputs, technology and guidance to farmers and entrepreneurs to popularise
the cultivation of these non-conventional crops."
The minister further said Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) provided 0.156 million saplings to farmers at free of cost which is expecting to be above 0.3 million plants this year.
To make cashew nut processing easier, he said, the government has reduced import duty on nut to 5.0 per cent from 90 per cent.
Minister for Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing, Senior Secretary of the Agriculture Ministry Md Mesbahul Islam, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) Executive Chairman Sheikh Md Bakhtiyar, Director General of DAE Md Asadullah, Chairman of BADC Dr Amitabh Sarker, and Deputy Director of DAE, Bandarban AKM Nazmul Haque also spoke at the programme.
According to DAE, three hill districts--Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachhari-have the potential for cashew nut cultivation in Bangladesh.
In Bandarban, cashew nut was cultivated on around 1,800 hectares of land last year while production was 1,300 tonnes.
DAE said there is a possibility of bringing about 22 per cent of the total land area under horticulture in hill districts.