Many of the farmers are showing their interests in cultivation of sweet potato in Rajshahi, including char areas, for a higher demand of the crop with good market price.
Low production cost and easy cultivation process made the farmers eager in its cultivation and for this reason its cultivation has increased considerably in char areas of the region, sources concerned said.
Anwar Hossain, a farmer of Char Mazar Diar in Paba upazila, said he has cultivated the crop on 45 decimals of land this season by spending about Tk3,500. He has already earned Tk17,500 by selling the grown sweet potatoes and is hopeful for getting more during the rest of the season.
Sonarul Islam, another grower of Char Asariadaha village in Godagari upazila, said he has brought 30 decimals of land under sweet potato cultivation this season. He has earned Tk12,200 so far from the sale of the sweet potatoes.
Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) has set a target of yielding around 1.25 lakh tons sweet potato from around 8,050 hectares of land in the country's northwest region during the current season.
The sources said the DAE and other government and non-government organizations concerned have taken necessary measures to make the sweet potato cultivation a success in the region.
Additional Director of DAE Mustafizur Rahman said the sandy lands and the riverbeds (chars) are suitable for the sweet potato cultivation. So, people of the Ganges and Brahmaputra basins and the remote char areas are habituated in the farming widely besides consuming it.
Production cost of the crop is very low, as it requires less fertilizer and irrigation. He said nutritive value of the crop is similar to rice and its taste is delicious.
It contains vitamin A and C and expected mineral elements, which are absent in rice. It is also enriched with protein, carbohydrate, calcium, iron, carotene and vitamin B1 and B2, which are essential for human body.
An adult person needs 13 grams of vitamin A per day it can be fulfilled after consuming only a single sweet potato.
Agriculturist Rahman mentioned that people of Philippines and Papua New Guinea consume sweet potato as the alternative of rice while in USA and Japan it is used as food widely.
He also mentioned that different types of tasty foods like halua, payesh, bread, pauruti, biscuit, pastry and cake could be made through processing the indigenous potato.
"If we can make the people habituated to sweet potato consumption the nation can reduce its dependence on rice to a greater extent," he said adding that steps should be taken to make the people in general aware in this regard.
In this context, he also said importance should be given to providing adequate training and agri-loans among the farmers.
ATM Rafiqul Islam, deputy manager of Barind Multipurpose Development Authority, said there is an enormous scope of boosting both acreage and yield of the indigenous crop through the best uses of the existing natural resources.