Former expat Habibur Rahman Matubbar, a resident of Kewabunya village under Amtali upazila in Barguna, has been enjoying great success in cultivating malta on his 15 bighas of land for the past seven years or so.
Matubbar, who lived in Saudi Arabia for almost 20 years, pondered how he could make an income after returning to Bangladesh in 2015 and this led him to the success story of another malta farmer that was posted on YouTube.
Inspired to try his hand at growing the fruit, Matubbar developed 15 bighas of land near his house with the assistance of CM Rezaul Karim, the upazila agriculture officer.
Having planted a total of 5,000 saplings, the orchard produced Tk 1 lakh worth of malta within a year.
Matubbar says his garden, where he grows other crops as well, earned him at least Tk 12 lakh over the past four years.
Apart from malta, which is a type of orange, he also grows mangoes, lemons, bananas, papayas and litchi to earn roughly Tk 3-4 lakh each year.
In addition, there are two ponds that have a radius of three bighas each that Matubbar uses to cultivate various types of fish, which earn him another Tk 3-4 lakh annually.
However, he insists that malta remains his biggest earner with yields increasing every year.
Matubbar is now well renowned for his success as a self-sufficient farmer with neighbours and locals from near and far coming to consult him for agricultural work.
Many people are even trying to imitate his success by growing various fruit, including malta, papaya, guava and banana in their backyards to meet their own food needs and earn an extra income.
“In just five years since my time abroad, I have become a successful malta farmer who earns lakhs of taka each year,” Matubbar said.
“Besides, I am now the ideal farmer as I cultivate different varieties of fruits and fishes as well. I am proud of this work,” he added.
The former expat went on to say that his malta usually sells for between Tk 200 and Tk 250 per kilogramme.
Harun Or Rashid, a neighbour of Matubbar, said many people in the area are now cultivating malta and other fruits.
Upazila Agricultural Officer Karim and other agriculture officials often visit Matubbar’s farm, which has helped bring a source of nourishment to people in the region.
Due to his success, many farmers from Kewabunya village and its surrounding areas are cultivating different varieties of fruits in what were once paddy fields.
Md Badrul Alam, additional deputy director of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Barguna, said malta is a profitable agricultural product.
“Due to its good demand and price across the country, farmers are increasingly turning to malta cultivation. In Barguna, 20 hectares of land has been cultivated this year and the acreage grows annually,” he added.
Malta production across the country doubled between fiscal 2018-19 and fiscal 2020-21. Farmers bagged 7,000 tonnes of the fruit in fiscal 2020-21, up from 3,000 tonnes the previous year. The total acreage under malta cultivation grew more than four times to 13,000 acres at the same time, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.