For florists in Shabdi under Kalagachhia union of Bandar upazila, the months between October and February are usually the busiest
Colourful waves of flower gardens blooming with roses, marigolds, tuberoses, dahlias, lilies, calendulas, cherry blossoms, gerberas and starflowers are a sight to behold on the bank of the Brahmaputra River in Narayanganj.
In a bid to recuperate last year’s losses, commercial flower growers in Shabdi village, also known as the “flower kingdom”, have cultivated over 50 million flowers of 14-15 different species in 70 hectares this season.
According to official data, the flowers have a market value of over Tk10 crore.
In Shabdi under Kalagachhia union of Bandar upazila, the months between October and February are usually the busiest months, given the number of festivals- starting from Victory Day, New Year's Eve, International Mother Language Day to Valentine's Day, not to mention the wedding season.
However, on account of the pandemic restrictions last year, local florists had suffered a severe blow. So this year they are hoping to recoup their losses by earning handsome profits from the bountiful production in the region.
On a recent visit to the village, this correspondent saw every single house buzzing with preparations for Valentine’s Day. Some were picking flowers, while others were sorting them into bouquets.
According to the Bandar Upazila Agriculture Office, Dighaldi, Shabdi and Madhabpasha under the Kalagachhia union are the major flower growing regions in the district.
Around 120-140 big and small farmers are involved in the flower trade here. Moreover, the livelihoods of more than 5,000 people are currently connected to the trade in various ways.
Sadly, though, flower cultivation in the district is in peril. Due to a decline in available fertile lands, flower cultivation has fallen drastically in the last five years.
In FY2016-17, flowers were cultivated on 160 hectares of land. But in FY2017-2018, flower cultivation fell to 80 hectares and later to 75 hectares in FY2018-19.
Tawlad Hossain, a florist from Shabdi village and general secretary of the flower wholesalers’ association in the upazila, said sales declined last year due to the pandemic. “Many flowers had to be thrown away. Many florists weren’t interested in flower cultivation this time around, while a lot of them sold their land.”
He also said that with necessary assistance and training from the government, it was possible to increase flower production in the region. “The affected flower farmers did not receive any government incentives during the pandemic. If low-interest loan facilities are arranged for us, we can take advantage of it and expand flower cultivation.”
Flowers are one of the main sources of income for most families in Jelepara. The women in this neighbourhood pick flowers and make garlands, while the fishermen sell flowers in their free time.
Lakshmi Rani of Jelepara said: “My family’s income isn’t enough to keep up with the rising prices of goods and services. So, I pick flowers in the mornings and afternoons and make garlands out of them. I make around Tk300-400 every day by selling my garlands.”
Tofail Hossain, deputy assistant officer, Bandar Upazila Agriculture Office, said: “Many farmers are selling off their land. Some are leasing it to brick kiln traders. As a result, flower and crop cultivation is in decline here.”
Bandar Upazila Agriculture Officer Farhana Sultana said: “It will be possible to expand flower production if it gets priority similar to other major crops. Currently, flowers are cultivated for only three months here, whereas it may be possible to cultivate them all year round. But as we don’t have allocation specifically for flower cultivation, we can't assist florists even if we would like to.”
"However, we have informed the authorities in this regard. There are possibilities of earning foreign exchange in future from flower cultivation in the district," she added.