Consumers are falling for chemically grown eye-candy pineapples that look bigger and nicer than the naturally farmed ones. This tendency is increasingly hurting planters who are using acceptable levels of chemicals while growing the fruit.
Chemicals are used to give the fruit a bigger size and better look. Despite their higher prices, consumers prefer such chemically-grown pineapples to organic ones, said Sanowar Hossain, a pineapple grower at Madhupur upazila in Tangail.
“Why will I continue producing organic pineapples, whereas people are knowingly opting for toxic ones? I have been producing the fruit organically in the last five years. But every year I incur huge losses, because unlike other farmers I cannot use poisonous substances in the fruit out of my conscience. I will no longer produce pineapples should I incur losses again this year,” a depressed Sanowar told the Dhaka Tribune.
“This is a food consumed by human beings. I have no right to adulterate it by using toxic chemicals. I will lose to my conscience should I do so. I do not feed these poisonous fruits to my children. So, why will I feed them to other people’s children?” he asked.
On Saturday, during a visit to Madhupur, one the biggest pineapple producing areas in the country, this correspondent came to know that chemical manufacturers are selling ripening agents under different names like Ethephon, Tomtom, Ethrel and Ripen. More and more Farmers and traders are using the chemicals as they make the ripening process easier and faster.
According to the cultivators, pineapples are harvested between the Bangla months of Ashar and Srabon. Traders face trouble carrying them to markets as the period coincides with the monsoon. As such, traders are compelled to market immature pineapples ahead of the harvesting season by spraying them with the chemicals.
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More and more farmers are resorting to the use of chemicals, as organically grown pineapples cannot compete with chemically grown alternatives MOHAMMED AFZAL HOSSAIN/DHAKA TRIBUNE
On the other hand, retail sellers are not interested in selling chemical-free pineapples, because such fruits are small in size and rot within a short span of time.
Singing the same tune, fruit sellers in the Old Bus Stand and New Bus Stand areas of Tangail town said organic varieties of the fruit can hardly be found there. Selling naturally grown pineapples is not lucrative either as they cannot be preserved, the sellers added.
“Inspired by me, one or two cultivators refrained from using chemicals in the fruit. But they too incurred huge losses as the fruits they produced could not be supplied to markets in due time. That is why they dare not produce organic pineapples. Who will knowingly accept the risk?” Sanowar asked.
The risk can be minimised if the government takes measures to encourage the cultivation of chemical-free pineapples, he opined, adding that there should be campaigns to make consumers aware of food adulteration.
Adus Salam, another cultivator, planted around 30,000 seedlings on a three-acre piece of land. He brought some 500 pineapples to Garo Market in Madhupur on Saturday and was selling a pair of the fruit at Tk40.
Asked if he and his family ate this fruit grown in his own land, Salam replied: “None of my family eats pineapples at this moment. We will eat only when they are properly ripe.”
Pineapples have been cultivated on over 14,300 acres of land in Madhupur with a production target of 185,600 metric tonnes, Upazila Agriculture Officer Mahmudul Hasan said, adding that they had taken a project under which organic pineapples would be produced.
He informed that they were mulling over exporting the fruit.
Hasan said: “Currently, we are in discussion with Hortex Foundation over the export of pineapples to the UAE. We will be trying to meet their terms and ensure scientific cultivation methods.”
“The use of chemicals can be reduced to a great extent if the proper methods are followed.”
The official put emphasis on clustering approaches to growing the fruit.
Shahadat Hossain, deputy director of local government in Tangail, said: “In order to encourage cultivation of organic pineapples, we are mulling over awarding those cultivators who refrain from using chemicals in production and the ripening processes.”