The government is eyeing to explore cotton cultivation in the salinity-hit southern districts after getting remarkable success at field level experiment.
The country can produce 0.32 million bales of lint cotton in 50,000 hectares which remained unused in the salinity prone coastal districts, officials at the Cotton Development Board (CDB) said.
CDB experimentally cultivated cotton for last two years at Tala Upazila in Satkhira and Gabkhan in Jhalkati districts and the result was impressive.
"Production was same as mainland and ranged between 2.5 and 3.0 tonnes per hectare from which 1.0 to 1.2 tonnes of lint cotton could be collected," cotton development board deputy director Md Tasdiqur Rahman said. (1 tonne = 5.49 bales).
Talking to the FE Md T Rahman said that 8.2 hectares have been cultivated for last two years. "We used hybrid cotton seed CB-12 at the salinity prone areas where farmers harvested nearly 3 tonnes per hectare."
Md Gazi Golam Mortuza, soil nutrition and water management specialist at CDB told the FE that the areas where cotton experiment gets a success contain salinity between 8 and 12 ds/m (decisiemens per meter).
Mortuza said the country's southern belt has nearly 0.25 million hectares which remains idle, and if properly managed in 0.05 million hectares' production can be nearly 0.32 million bales of lint cotton.
Unit Officer of CDB Satkhira Santosh Kumar Biswas said farmers have cultivated cotton in 106 hectares this season and the harvest will begin next month.
Giner (who separates lint or fibre from seed cotton) Association of Bangladesh President Md Tabibor Rahman told the FE that farmers consider cotton as a profitable cash crop.
"The farmers get 10 to 12 maund of cotton from a bigha of land the prices of which ranges between Tk 20000 and Tk 25000 against a production cost of Tk 10,000", he said.
Md T Rahman also pointed out that many other crops in rotation can be grown at cotton fields including turmeric, ginger and few leafy vegetable items.
Md Abdul Latif, executive director, CDB told the FE that the Board has taken a reformation move styled "expansion of cotton cultivation" and sent the proposal to the agriculture ministry which is now waiting for the planning ministry's approval".
The Board's new organogram will be extended to 64 districts which now exists in 34 districts under 13 zones.
"Our first target is to explore cotton field to 0.1 million hectares by end of FY'15", he added.
CDB data revealed that cotton production was 0.104 million bales in FY'11 cultivated in 37,000 hectares. The Board is expecting 0.18 million bales of fibre in the current fiscal year in 45,000 hectares.
Cotton is mainly grown in Kustia, Jessore, Dinajpur, Mymensingh and Hill Tract regions.
According to the Bangladesh Cotton Association, the country expends nearly 3.6 per cent of its import payment only to purchase cotton from external sources.
Bangladesh is second largest readymade garments (RMG) exporter in the world and at the same time second largest cotton importer purchasing nearly 3.6 million bales of cotton amounting to US $1.32 billion in 2012.
Experts expressed their view that the country has a prospect to produce one fourth of its total demand locally which could save millions of dollars and make strong backward linkage industries in RMG sector.