Bad stomach leads to malta success

Habibur Rahman with Andrew Eagle

Sheikh Humayun Kabir, 45, a computer engineer and businessperson from Pirojpur town, has suffered the ill-effects of a sensitive stomach for many years. In 2014 he travelled to Thailand for treatment. While there, where his diet consisted primarily of local fruit, he discovered that fresh fruit did not irritate his stomach. As a result, upon returning to Pirojpur, he and his wife decided to establish their own malta orchard. It would turn out to be the district’s largest.

“In Bangkok I ate huge amounts of fruit,” he says, “and it had no negative effect. The fruit was fresh. But in Bangladesh I didn’t dare to do the same; not all fruit is safe to eat here.”

“While we were abroad and he ate fruit,” agrees wife Shamsunnahar, who is a government employee, “his physical condition improved drastically. After witnessing this improvement, we agreed to establish an orchard.”

They thought that if they had their own fruit supply they could have confidence that the produce was free of chemical adulteration and his gastrointestinal complaint would be more manageable, explains Humayun.

To this end, Humayun travelled around the country to gather knowledge of fruit cultivation and became inspired to grow maltas. With 20,000 malta trees as well as some mangoes and other fruit trees, his orchard was established on 51 acres of land adjacent to the Pirojpur — Hulerhaat road.

“I only planted the trees last year,” says Humayun, “but already around 25 percent of the trees are bearing fruit. Next year I hope every tree will produce.”

Humayun has employed 30 workers at his orchard including an expert agronomist supervisor, Ripon Roy. He hopes to operate it as a nursery as well.

Humayun’s early success has surprised many locals. “People think maltas will not grow well in sandy soil,” he says, “but the sand is good for drainage such that the fruit trees stay dry and produce extra fresh fruit.

Everyday, many people visit the orchard. They want to see. At times we’ve had as many as 500 visitors at once.”

The soil in the area is also salty, but this too is not a problem. According to sub-assistant agriculture officer in Pirojpur sadar upazila Md Abdur Rahman, maltas are particularly salt hardy, being able to withstand salt levels up to three times greater than most other crops including paddy.

“Maltas can also be grown by grafting them on batabi trees, a variety of lemon,” Rahman says, “Thus they can effectively grow anywhere. And because maltas are ripe between August and November when many other fruits are absent from the marketplace there is good demand.”

The Pirojpur department of agriculture extension reports there are now 154 malta orchards in the district, while five years ago there were not more than five. “In the whole district,” agriculture officer Md Hasan Warisul notes, “Sheikh Humayun Kabir’s malta orchard is the largest.”

According to Humayun, it is his wife who has been his strongest supporter, and she accompanies him to work in the orchard even if they are busy until late at night. “The orchard keeps us physically fit,” he says.

“Since we established the orchard,” says Shamsunnahar, “we haven’t bought a single piece of fruit in the market. We eat what we grow.”

Sheikh Humayun Kabir, 45, a computer engineer and businessperson from Pirojpur town, has suffered the ill-effects of a sensitive stomach for many years. In 2014 he travelled to Thailand for treatment. While there, where his diet consisted primarily of local fruit, he discovered that fresh fruit did not irritate his stomach. As a result, upon returning to Pirojpur, he and his wife decided to establish their own malta orchard. It would turn out to be the district’s largest.

“In Bangkok I ate huge amounts of fruit,” he says, “and it had no negative effect. The fruit was fresh. But in Bangladesh I didn’t dare to do the same; not all fruit is safe to eat here.”

“While we were abroad and he ate fruit,” agrees wife Shamsunnahar, who is a government employee, “his physical condition improved drastically. After witnessing this improvement, we agreed to establish an orchard.”

They thought that if they had their own fruit supply they could have confidence that the produce was free of chemical adulteration and his gastrointestinal complaint would be more manageable, explains Humayun.

To this end, Humayun travelled around the country to gather knowledge of fruit cultivation and became inspired to grow maltas. With 20,000 malta trees as well as some mangoes and other fruit trees, his orchard was established on 51 acres of land adjacent to the Pirojpur — Hulerhaat road.

“I only planted the trees last year,” says Humayun, “but already around 25 percent of the trees are bearing fruit. Next year I hope every tree will produce.”

Humayun has employed 30 workers at his orchard including an expert agronomist supervisor, Ripon Roy. He hopes to operate it as a nursery as well.

Humayun’s early success has surprised many locals. “People think maltas will not grow well in sandy soil,” he says, “but the sand is good for drainage such that the fruit trees stay dry and produce extra fresh fruit.

Everyday, many people visit the orchard. They want to see. At times we’ve had as many as 500 visitors at once.”

The soil in the area is also salty, but this too is not a problem. According to sub-assistant agriculture officer in Pirojpur sadar upazila Md Abdur Rahman, maltas are particularly salt hardy, being able to withstand salt levels up to three times greater than most other crops including paddy.

“Maltas can also be grown by grafting them on batabi trees, a variety of lemon,” Rahman says, “Thus they can effectively grow anywhere. And because maltas are ripe between August and November when many other fruits are absent from the marketplace there is good demand.”

The Pirojpur department of agriculture extension reports there are now 154 malta orchards in the district, while five years ago there were not more than five. “In the whole district,” agriculture officer Md Hasan Warisul notes, “Sheikh Humayun Kabir’s malta orchard is the largest.”

According to Humayun, it is his wife who has been his strongest supporter, and she accompanies him to work in the orchard even if they are busy until late at night. “The orchard keeps us physically fit,” he says.

“Since we established the orchard,” says Shamsunnahar, “we haven’t bought a single piece of fruit in the market. We eat what we grow.”

Source: The Daily Star. Date: November 6 2016

http://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/bad-stomach-leads-malta-success-1310146