Convenient intrusion

Ahmed Shatil Alam reveals why foreign fruits are replacing the traditional fruits of Bangladesh in the local markets

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For many of us, the arrival of Baishakh signifies the birth of a new year with new hope and a new season that not only make people’s lives difficult with nor’westers and scorching heat, but at the same time many of us consider this season as the ‘season of fruits’. According to horticulture experts in Bangladesh, there are around 70 types of local fruits available in the country. Among them a good number of fruits- which are most popular in the country like mangoes, lychees and jackfruits are produced in large scale during this summer season.

Although, in Bangladesh, these are the big names in the local fruit markets, other fruit species- around 40 types of local fruits- have been on the verge of disappearing from the markets due to reasons like adulteration over the past decade as well as the emergence of foreign fruits initially imported from South East Asia and Europe and currently being cultivated in some parts of the country.

During recent visits to some Dhaka-based kitchen markets, New Age Xtra also found that these foreign fruits are receiving increasing popularity among the middle and higher income households of the city. But most lovers of these fruits are hardly aware that our local varieties of fruits are to some extent way ahead of these foreign fruits in taste and of course nutritional value.

Jamrul (Wax apple)

Few days back, Fuad Ur Rabbi, an employee of a foreign company in Bangladesh, faced an unusual situation when he was asked by his seven year old nephew to bring Kamranga (Carambola). His nephew heard the name of the fruit from one of his teachers at school and since then he has been nagging for it as he has never seen or tasted it.

Later, Rabbi went to the nearest kitchen market in Malibagh but could not find any. Some of the fruit traders suggested that he may try to bring the fruit from outside Dhaka as this fruit has been rare in Dhaka recently. As Rabbi inquired into the matter, they also told him that many local and unusual fruits like Ata Fal or Sharifa (Custard apple), Kaufal (Mangosteen), Gab (Mabolo or Butter fruit), Deuwa (Monkey Jack), Boroi (Indian Jujube), Chalta (Elephant Apple), Paanifal (Water caltrop), Sobeda (Sapodilla), Haritaki  (Myrobalan), Jamrul (Wax apple) and others have become rare in the local markets as the production of these fruits have decreased in recent years. Later, Rabbi brought the Carambola for his nephew from one of his friends’ home in Manikganj.

sugar-apple-1024x768While talking to New Age Xtra, several fruit-sellers from Shantinagar, Hatirpool and Mohammadpur Town Hall kitchen markets shared that some foreign fruits have replaced the local fruits in the markets. These foreign fruits include Rambutan, Dragon fruit or Pitaya, Cherry Mango, Kiwifruit or Chinese gooseberry, Cherry and Persimmons or Kaki fruit. These fruits are being sold in Dhaka’s market in prices ranging from Taka 400 to 2,400 per kilogramme. These are mostly sold in Gulshan, Dhanmondi and Paltan areas. Some super shops are also selling these fruits due to their increasing popularity among the upper middle class and higher income groups of the society, shared Gulshan-based fruit seller Ayub Ali.

Chalta (Elephant Apple)Rambutan, native to South-East Asia, is a lychee-like fruit usually imported from Thailand. It is sweet and can be found in Dhaka’s markets for Taka 500 to 700 per kilogramme. Dragon fruit, which originated from Mexico but is currently imported from Thailand to Bangladesh, feels sweet and watery in taste. A kilogramme of this fruit can be bought at Tk 400 to 800.

But in recent days, the cultivation of some of these fruits has started in Bangladesh, and these locally cultivated varieties are less expensive than the imported fruits. Cherry mango is a dwarf-shaped mango sold in the markets for Taka 800 to 1,200 per kilogramme. These fruits are usually yellow in colour when ripe. They are imported from Australia and are sweet.

The oval-shaped Kiwifruit are usually as big as a hen’s egg. It contains a fibrous, dull greenish-brown skin and flesh with rows of tiny, black, edible seeds. The fruit has a soft texture and a sweet but unique flavour. It is a commercial crop in several countries including Italy, New Zealand, Chile, Greece, and France.

In Bangladesh, it is imported from New Zealand and South Africa and can be found for Taka 500 to 700 per kilogramme.

Meanwhile, cherry, probably the most expensive fruit in Bangladesh, are sold between Taka 2,000 to 2,400 per kilogramme, as these are imported from European countries. The fruit has a unique sweet and sour taste and is shaped like a small ball with dark red colour. Despite its high price, the fruit is extremely popular among higher income households, informed traders.

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The fruit importers shared with New Age Xtra that in last the fiscal year, until this March, around 50 tonnes of Rambutan, 40 tonnes of Dragon fruits, 30-40 tonnes of Kiwi fruits have so far been imported into Bangladesh.

While talking to New Age Xtra, M Mehdi Maswood, director of ‘Year Round Fruit Production for Nutrition Improvement Project’ under the Agricultural Ministry, admitted that these foreign fruits are gaining popularity among the people while also replacing the traditional fruits.

He also pointed out the causes behind the decreasing production of the traditional fruits. ‘Actually the traditional fruits were cultivated in the backyard garden of households, but due to increasing population such gardens have disappeared,’ he says. Currently, the culture of gardening in both urban and rural settings has been badly affected. ‘Once upon a time, people used to plant these fruits in their houses entirely for their families,’ he adds.

Deuwa (Monkey Jack)‘Although the foreign fruits are far behind in nutritional value from the traditional fruits, due to the availability and aggressive marketing strategy by the foreign countries from where these have been imported to Bangladesh, these fruits are taking over the market.’ says Maswood. He also tells New Age Xtra that due to the popularity of these fruits, many fruit-producers from the Northern districts of Bangladesh are already cultivating them.

Maswood also feels that the impact of climate change is responsible too for the production of these fruits in Bangladesh. ‘These foreign fruits are less perishable than the traditional fruits. That is another reason why the local businessmen are becoming more interested in their import and sale,’ he says.

He, however, adds that traditional fruits are still required in the society due to their nutritional value. ‘Fruits like Sharifa, Haritaki  etc are useful to fight against many diseases. Through my project, the Bangladesh government is working at popularising the traditional fruits. We are working on increasing the cultivation of the traditional fruits by giving away their seeds and seedlings to farmers,’ he claims.

 

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