Lucrative market price of garlic has encouraged the farmers to boost cultivation of the spice this winter, farmers and officials said.
The farming increased in the country both in terms of area and production over the last six years, but imports still dominate the domestic market, observers said.
According to Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), the prices remained volatile in 2016 and ranged between Tk 120 to Tk 260 a kg.
On Tuesday, the local variety was selling at Tk 160 per kg and the imported variety Tk 220 per kg - 80 to 100 per cent higher than last year.
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) data showed that the garlic production nearly doubled from around 144,000 tonnes in the fiscal year (FY) 2009-10 to 275,000 tonnes in FY16 while the coverage increased from 33,000 hectares of land to 55,000 hectares during the period.
The spice witnessed a 7-18 per cent production growth year-on- year during the period.
The farming area is expected to increase by 10,000-12,000 hectares this year, following the attractive prices in the domestic market, Director of Field Service Wing under Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) Chaitanya Das said.
He said the primary target was to produce 350,000 tonnes of garlic on 70,000 million hectares of land this season.
Rajshahi, Kushtia, Jessore, Faridpur, Dinajpur and Comilla are the major garlic producing regions in the country.
Md Ariful Alam, a farmer at Tanor in Rajshahi told the FE that they incurred losses during the last few years by producing potato, tomato or other vegetables and rice.
"But we get handsome returns by cultivating garlic and onion," he said.
He said garlic and onion plantation has started with completion of harvest of Aman crop in his area. Many of the farmers are expanding the area this season, following the high price, he added.
In March last, the farmers sold the item at Tk 34-42 a kg against a production cost of Tk 24-26 a kg.
Farmers have made a profit of Tk 14,000-14,500 per bigha (33 decimal) of land, he said.
Ainal Hoque, a farmer-cum trader at Mohammadpur in Magura district said seeds of some high-yielding varieties are becoming popular in the recent years, contributing to increased production.
If the price trend continues during the upcoming harvesting season, he was expecting windfall profits from his two bighas of land.
Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM) assistant director TM Rashed Khan said that farmers usually incur losses or make 5 to 15 per cent profit by cultivating potato, rice and vegetables as compared to 30-60 per cent on spices like garlic, onion and ginger, and oilseeds and pulses.
Farm economist Prof Gazi M Jalil said gradual hike in demand of spices like garlic, onion and ginger has helped push up the prices at the farm level, which is encouraging.
He said a shortfall in production in China last year helped farmers gain good profits from garlic as prices of imported products remained higher in the domestic market.
"But we should remember that we still import garlic more than 50 per cent of our demand," he added.
"To boost local production further, the farmers should always be encouraged with good returns," he said.
A leading spice importer at Shyambazar in the city, Narayan Chandra Saha, said import cost for Chinese garlic has swelled up to US $2,100-$2,180 a tonne in October-November this year which was $1,050- $1,100 a tonne in the corresponding period of last year.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, there is a demand for 550,000 tonnes of garlic in the country against a domestic demand for 275,000 tonnes.
The country's import expenditure on garlic was nearly Tk 17.5 billion in the last fiscal year.