DHAKA, Bangladesh

Rising demand for pulses among the people in Bangladesh is prompting local farmers to cultivate the popular crop across the country despite some predicaments.

Pulses, locally known as “Dal”, is a very popular diet in the South Asian nations of nearly 170 million people for generations, officials, and farmers viewed on the World Pulses Day being observed on Thursday.

Pulses are the second-most favorite source of nutrition after the most common food item of rice in Bangladesh.

In hotels, restaurants, student dormitories, officers’ and workers’ messes, hospitals as well as all other public places one of the most common food items is pulses. The rich and the poor alike keep pulses in their regular food menu.

“I don’t imagine having no pulses in my food menu especially at lunch,” Md. Mohsin, a private job holder in the port city of Chattogram, told Anadolu Agency.

Hailing from the country’s remote southern region, he added that since his childhood this is the most common diet for him after rice.

“Whatever recipes we prepare for lunch and dinner, pulses are part of them,” said Md. Shah Alam, registrar at a private university in southwestern Khulna district.

Underlining that the pulses as one of the prime sources of nutrition, he added: “In my 50 years of life, I saw this food item common when I lived with my parents in the village and now it’s common in my family and hope that my children will also continue the trend.”

In the capital Dhaka, there are thousands of day laborers, including rickshaw pullers, who mostly eat pulses from floating food facilities at different footpaths along the busy roads.

In marriage ceremonies and birthday parties, pulses are served with different other delicious foods. “Pulses have become a food culture in Bangladesh,” Md. Imran Hossain, a private job holder in Dhaka’s Paltan area, told Anadolu Agency while taking lunch from a roadside food facility.

Rapid growth

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mohammad Mofazzal, a farmer in the country’s distant area of Barishal, said they have been cultivating rice for generations, but for the last couple of years they have started cultivating pulses along with other seasonal crops.

“Last year, I cultivated pulses spending nearly 4,000 (Bangladeshi) takas (approximately $48) and earned 22,000 takas ($262) in three months,” he said, adding that the cultivation process of pulses is easier than many other crops.

“First, I reserve the required pulses for one year for my family and then sell the remaining quantity,” he said, adding thousands of other farmers also do the same.

He, however, viewed that if the production cost is reduced, farmers would be encouraged to produce more pulses. “My earnest request to the government is to cut the prices of fertilizer and pesticides so that the production cost of this vital crop is reduced.”

Corrupt syndicate

Bangladesh’s northern regions like Pabna and Rajshahi are popular for pulses’ cultivation. Farmers of those areas accused some corrupt syndicates of depriving the farmers of a fair price of pulses.

“Most of the time we don’t get the price fixed by the government as some corrupt syndicates always exploit farmers,” Syed Hasan Miraj, a farmer in the country’s northern Rajshahi division, told Anadolu Agency.

He said that despite less cost and work, farmers sometimes do not cultivate pulses because they do not get a fair price for their produce due to those syndicates.

“Normally, the production cost of pulses on 1 acre (0.4 hectares) of land may be a maximum (of) 3,500 takas ($42), but if you want to plant rice on the same land you will have to spend 20,000 takas ($238),” Miraj said.

He said many Bangladeshi farmers lack the knowledge of scientific cultivation of pulses, adding that agricultural officials and scientists should help the farmers learn better techniques of cultivation.

Raising produce

“This food item fulfills the nutrition need of the non-vegetarians as it contains protein, fiber, and carbohydrate,” Nahiduzzaman Sajjad, a medical doctor in the capital Dhaka, told Anadolu Agency.

He added that as a source of nutrition for a large number of people, the uninterrupted supply of pulses must be ensured across the country.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Md. Mohi Uddin, director at the government-run Pulses Research Centre in Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), said that they were working to invent some new varieties of pulses to increase productivity and lower the cost.

He added there were some unused and comparatively unfertile lands in many regions of Bangladesh that could be used for pulses’ cultivation. “This crop is more resilient to unfertile land than many other crops.”

The scientist added that almost 60% of this food item in Bangladesh is imported to meet the local demand.

“The total annual need of pulses in Bangladesh is currently around 2.5 million tons. Of them, we produce nearly 1 million tons, and the rest we have to import,” he said.

Underlining the government’s plans to increase the cultivation of pulses to a surplus scale, he said that the popular food item not only fulfills the nutrition needs of human beings but also caters to other domestic animals. “It also keeps soil healthy.”

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