After successful cultivation of coffee in Tangail, Cox's Bazar and the Chattogram Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, farming of the popular drink's shrubs has reached Rangpur.
The pioneer of coffee cultivation in the district is Mokhlesur Rahman, a young man from Goalbari village under Taraganj Upazila.
He became interested in coffee farming after it was proven that the soil and climate of Bangladesh are suitable for small-scale coffee farming through its production in the hilly areas.
Rahman started coffee production on his 28 decimals of land in 2017, bringing in 800 coffee saplings from a nursery in Cox's Bazar. At present, he has 450 coffee trees in his garden and he has already sold coffee seeds worth Tk2.5 lakhs.
Coffee trees are covered in waxy leaves and the coffee cherries – the fruit whose seeds are the coffee beans – grow along the branches. An average tree produces about 10 pounds of coffee cherries each year, which yields about two pounds of beans.
Mokhlesur Rahman told , "Once my trees reach 30 years of age, the yield will increase, and I hope to sell coffee worth one crore taka at that time."
Sharing his farming experience, he said, "After one-and-a-half years, a few trees blossomed in my garden. After the coffee cherries ripened, I was able to collect six kilograms of coffee seeds. I cleaned the seeds, dried them in the sun and broke off the thin hardcover on top before grinding them to get the coffee powder."
During the cultivation, he regularly consulted the local agriculture office.
Upazila agriculture department officials said all the 450 trees in Rahman's garden bore fruits. "He is expected to get 30 kilograms of coffee from his garden," they said.
After Rahman's success in coffee farming, a number of local entrepreneurs are trying to achieve the same and coffee is now being cultivated on one bigha of land in Taraganj Upazila. Coffee farmers in the Upazila hope for successful cultivation, though it takes a long time for them to make a profit.
The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Rangpur officials said at present, tea is being produced on a large scale in the northern region. The soil of this region is very suitable for tea and coffee cultivation. "That's why we are providing all kinds of support to the newly growing coffee farmers," they said.
Rangpur DAE deputy director Sarwarul Alam said, "The soil and climate condition in different Upazilas, including Taraganj, is suitable for coffee cultivation which needs less dry soil."
He stated that the district DAE is producing coffee saplings with an aim to popularise cultivation of the popular drink in Rangpur.
He claimed that in five years, it will be possible to export coffee produced in the region to other countries after meeting local demand.
Delwar Rahman, from Boalmari village under Taraganj Upazila, became interested in cultivating coffee after being inspired by Mokhlesur Rahman's success. He said, "I am cultivating coffee on 30 decimals of land. I am expecting coffee cherries after one more year."
Saying that besides Taraganj, coffee is now being cultivated in other Upazilas of the district, he hopes, "Within the next few years, coffee will be cultivated in the northern region on a large scale."
DAE officials said extensive cultivation of tea in the region indicates the enormous potential of coffee cultivation. Already, coffee is commercially cultivated in three hill districts besides Madhupur in Tangail and Cox's Bazar. The locally produced product has already earned a moniker – the Hill Tract Blend – and it is being sold in different super shops in the capital and other cities.
Taraganj Upazila agriculture office Urmi Tabassum said, "The soil and climate are conducive to tea and coffee cultivation here. If the producers get a fair price on the market, more and more farmers will start cultivating it."
She also hoped coffee produced in the Upazila would be able to play a special role in meeting local demand and reducing import dependence.