Favorable soil and weather conditions in Panchagarh have put orange farming in the spotlight. Panchagarh is a moderately drought-prone area, but there are a few spots that are ideal for orange cultivation — due to its proximity to the Himalayas. Its soil is largely sandy and alluvial and bears close affinity with the soil of the old Himalayan basin. The popular fruit has the potential to become a cash crop for farmers in the four upazilas of the Panchagarh district, sector people said.
The Horticulture Department, District Agriculture Department and Orange Orchard Development Board have taken steps to help orange farming flourish in the northern district.
The first orange farming project was introduced in 2006 with some Indian varieties, including Khashiya and Nagpuri being widely cultivated in Shiliguri, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling of India. Ashim Kumar Paul, an official of Panchagarh Orange Orchard Development Project, said Panchagarh oranges would hit the international market by 2011, after meeting domestic demand. At least 1,000 people have so far been trained and about 100 hectares of land in different upazilas of Panchagarh have been marked for orange cultivation. An additional 100 hectares of land will be brought under orange cultivation, as the district is fixing the production target at about 500,000 tonnes. Hundreds of interested villagers in the area also planted orange trees around their homes. According to a 2003 survey, at least 1,450 hectares of land in four upazilas of the district are ideal for orange cultivation — 400 hectares in Tetulia, 400 hectares in Panchagarh, 300 hectares in Atwari and 350 hectares in Boda. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) along with the Horticulture Orange Orchard Development Department took steps to encourage farmers to cultivate oranges in 2006. In 1998, Md Mominul Islam of DAE distributed orange plants among farmers, which brought in good yield. The Horticulture Department in collaboration with the Panchagarh Orange Orchard Development Board has also organised awareness programmes — “Scope for Commercial Orange Cultivation” — to educate farmers. “A large number of farmers in the district have begun orange production this year,” said an official who visited several orchards. Achinta Kumar Roy of Shardarpara village under Boda upazila said his orchard produced oranges this year. “This new crop is inspiring many farmers in the area to follow suit,” Roy said. However, the sweet fruit from the district is yet to reach local markets. “Since the availability of water is a major consideration for this fruit, we have identified certain areas that are ideal in this regard,” said Paul. “The orange cultivation project has so far received encouraging response from the farmers in the district.” The Panchagarh Orange Orchard Development Project official said efforts would be made to popularise orange cultivation in the district by involving various agencies associated with the crop, based on modern techniques