Farmers growing pineapples without chemical and hormone additives are facing mounting losses because demand for their product is proving to be weak.
Consumers prefer large, bright pineapples but naturally grown fruit is not as large or brightly coloured as its chemically-treated competitor.
Madhupur pineapples, once famous for their flavour and juiciness, have lost their original flavour because of the unrestricted use of growth hormones and chemicals.
Many farmers spray growth boosting chemicals on pineapple flowers to produce larger-than-usual fruit and then apply hormones to immature fruit to artificially ripen them and ready them for harvesting.
Md Aziz Ullah, deputy director of Tangail Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), told the Dhaka Tribune that pineapples were being grown on 7,612 hectares of land this year in the district’s Madhupur upazila and Ghatail upazila.
Sanower Hossain, who is growing hormone and chemical-free pineapples in Mohishmara village under Madhupur upazila on six bighas of land, said, “consumers do not like our produce because of its size and colour. We are selling our fruit at half the price of chemically-enhanced fruit.”
“Because our pineapples mature naturally, we need to harvest it every day as they ripen. We cannot harvest more than 50 or 60 pineapples a day. So we have to hire labour every day to harvest the fruit and get it to market, raising production costs,” he said.
“We are still harvesting pineapples from our fields even now, but those who sprayed their fruits with chemicals and hormones sold off their produce when the price was high,” said Sanower.
Another farmer, Lokman Hossain, who planted chemical and hormone-free pineapples on 8 bighas of land said, “I am selling my fruits at Tk12 to Tk14 per piece while chemically treated pineapples sold at Tk20 to Tk25 per piece.”
He said he was sad that consumers only looked at the size and colour without comparing the flavour of chemically-treated fruit and naturally grown fruit.
Tangail civil surgeon Dr Sayed Ibne Saied said: “All kinds of chemicals are harmful for health. It destroys the resistance power of the body. It may damage our kidneys and liver.”
Deputy Commissioner of Tangail Md Mahbub Hossain said: “We have taken some steps to discourage farmers from using hormones and chemicals to enlarge and ripen their fruit. We have instructed agriculture officers and Upazila Nirbahi Officers to raise awareness among pineapple wholesalers, consumers and the sellers of agro-chemicals.”
“Leaflets will be distributed and mobile courts will be used when appropriate,” the DC said.