DHAKA: After long research and trials at his nursery in Cumilla, some 100 km from Dhaka, Shamsul Alam started to bring tiny mango, jackfruit, and fig trees to the Gulf region. The efforts — and trees — have recently started to yield fruit, inspiring other Bangladeshi farmers to follow in his footsteps.
Alam began to export fruit saplings to Qatar in 2019, and soon also to the UAE and Oman.
“Since 2019, I have exported around 150,000 saplings to UAE, Qatar, and Oman,” he told Arab News. “All these plants are grown now and offer the taste of Bangladeshi fruits to Arabs. Bangladeshi fruit orchards are now seen in Qatar, Oman, and the UAE.”
He tapped into the market at the right moment, as in recent years afforestation programs have been gaining momentum in Gulf countries.
This year, Alam is focusing on mango trees and has already prepared several varieties at his Green World Nursery.
“Dubai ordered some Bangladeshi mango saplings from me. I have prepared 400 mango saplings with seven varieties of Bangladeshi mangoes, and these plants are ready now,” he said. “I hope to make the shipment in October.”
Dr. Reza Khan, principal wildlife specialist at Dubai Safari Park, who ordered the saplings from Alam, told Arab News that they will be planted in the Dubai desert as part of an “experimental” initiative.
“If rice can be grown in the desert, I hope that with proper care mangoes could be cultivated here as well,” he said.
For Bangladeshi growers, the business has potential. While it costs them about $2 to prepare a tree sapling in nurseries in Bangladesh, they sell them in the Gulf market at a price about four times higher.
According to Bangladeshi government data, Qatar has been the largest export destination for Bangladeshi fruit saplings, but the UAE is quickly gaining pace.
“The UAE is a big potential ... Especially saplings of mangoes are very popular,” said Kamrul Hasan, commercial counselor at the Bangladeshi Consulate General of Bangladesh in Dubai.
He believes that the UAE could become a hub for Bangladeshi sapling trade, as exporters have already scored phytosanitary certificates and environmental clearances.
“We have been exporting saplings in larger volumes for the last four-five years,” Hasan told Arab News.
“A lot of nurseries are there in Bangladesh involved in this sapling business and they are very efficient in their work, supplying quality saplings to Middle Eastern countries.”
Mohammad Khadim, who has been exporting saplings to the UAE since last year, says the main competitors for Bangladeshi exporters are Pakistan and India, which have easier access to the Gulf.
“For us, it takes around one month to reach the ports in Gulf countries,” he said. “Our competitors require only one week.”
But he is not discouraged and already plans to expand business to Saudi Arabia, which under the Middle East Green Initiative targets the planting of 50 billion trees across the whole region.
“I am in discussion with some buyers from Saudi Arabia,” Khadim said. “I hope to get positive results in the near future.”