When Ahsanullah Hasan, a jute farmer from Shyampur Village, Mohespur in Jhenaidah District, was approached to test the application of locally grown jute seeds, he was skeptical of taking what he thought was a big risk. Ahsanullah has been growing jute for 20 years, always using imported seeds from neighboring countries. But, in recent years he has become increasingly concerned about quality inputs as the productivity of his land has steadily declined due to a growing trend of low-quality imported seeds flooding the market coupled with declining land fertility resulting from the indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides.
Md. Nur Alam Liton, Managing Director of Konika Seed Company (KSC), assured Ahsanullah that KSC’s locally produced seeds would generate a higher yield and a better quality product, and offered to reduce Ahsanullah’s risk by providing him with a trial of the locally produced seeds. The proprietor of KSC is a local seed trader and producer, and he was confident in his product because he tested the seeds in the previous year, generating good results. USAID’s Agricultural Value Chains (AVC) Project worked with KSC to improve their capacity to market and promote their locally produced quality jute seeds through an innovative “late sowing method” that allowed for higher purity, less inert matter, as well as higher germination rates. As a result, farmers of Jhenaidah District have produced improved jute seeds at rates that are 20-40 percent higher than the national average production.
Ahsanullah is a member of a group of 30 jute farmers located in Noalbillpara union at Moheshpur Upazilla in Jhenaidah district. This group was formed by KSC for promoting quality jute production at the farmers’ level. KSC provided six tons of jute seeds to their contract farmers this season. AVC supported KSC to package these seeds trial packs with additional services, including technical training on modern production technology, inter-cultural operations, and post-harvest management techniques. After the training, the farmers applied the knowledge and techniques they learned to their own fields. The results were visible in terms of production and fiber quality.
‘‘I was surprised to see that the germination rate of the jute seeds that Konika provided was almost 100 percent and the average height of the plant increased by at least 10 percent. My father, friends and neighbors were also amazed to see the growth of jute plants in my field. The production of fiber was also 30 percent higher than last year,” said Ahsanullah. “I am grateful to Konika Seeds Company and AVC project for providing us technical and moral support to grow jute from local seeds. I believe, it will certainly reduce the uncertainty and the dependency on imported seeds,” said Ahsanullah.
As per Konika’s instruction, Ahsanullah used all organic products during land preparation and a minimum level of fertilizers during the growth period. As a result, his cost of production reduced due to improved weed management and balanced fertilizer application. The technical assistance and training has also enriched his knowledge of retting techniques that will help improve the quality of jute fibers. AVC also established linkages between farmers, input sellers and local large traders to create opportunities for bulk selling, so that the farmers can easily sell their fibers directly from their farm as well as in the market.
Md. Nur Alam Liton stated that through KSC’s partnership with AVC, they have improved their tactics for production, promotion, and marketing of jute seeds. AVC also facilitated a partnership between KSC and the Bangladesh Jute Research Institute to help source high quality breeder seeds. In the last year, these seeds have become increasingly popular among farmers due to their excellent germination rate. KSC also introduced a trial pack containing 750 grams of jute seeds that are capable of covering 33 decimals of land, which reduced the cost for farmers as they were previously requiring 1,000 grams for the same area of land. Nur Alam is optimistic that the dependency on imported seeds will reduce substantially if locally grown seeds are promoted properly.
Ahsanullah experienced a bump in his production of jute this year. He harvested about 520 kgs of fibers from 33 decimals of land, while it was 400 kgs from the same area of land in the previous year. After witnessing his success, his neighboring farmers have expressed an interest in testing Konika’s locally grown seeds next season. By helping KSC improve their seed promotion and marketing techniques, AVC has facilitated farmers’ access to high quality inputs, resulting in an increase in the quality and quantity of jute produced each season. The higher yields and better value for jute products in turn increases the incomes of the rural jute farmers who have benefitted from this AVC activity.