The farmers of the north are not able to gain profit in cultivating sunflower despite their best efforts. Although the cost of production is low, farmers have to count the losses due to lack of sunflower oil grinder and lack of demand in the market like other crops. Sunflower seed oil can be a decent alternative for soybean oil.
Although sunflower is not widely cultivated in this region, farmers used to cultivate it in Rabi season as a hobby. Its yield in the char areas is also unexpected. But due to lack of opportunities to reach the desired goal, the cultivation of this potential oilseed crop is gradually declining.
Farmers used to produce oil in their own mills with mustard at one time. At that time there was no alternative to this pure mustard oil as the only edible oil. It was later replaced by imported soybean oil. However, the price of this oil increased rapidly. At one stage, the farmers starts cultivating sunflower as an alternative source of edible oil.
Oil is obtained from the mature seeds of sunflower. But at the local level, farmers are turning away from sunflower due to various obstacles including lack of opportunity to produce oil from those seeds. Last year, 1,407 hectares of land was cultivated in five districts of Rangpur agricultural region, but this year, only 360 hectares of land has been planted with sunflower.
Sunflower oil is not only beautiful in appearance, but also unique in quality. Sunflower seed oil is great for health. Sunflower does not contain the harmful substances (especially cholesterol) that other oilseeds contain. Rather, it contains more beneficial ingredients and nutrients.
Read More: Soybean oil price up again by Tk 7 a litre
Bottled sunflower oil is available in some of the famous shops in different parts of the country, including Dhaka. These are manufactured by private multinational company and imported from abroad. Prices are high, so sunflower oil is not common in the food chart of general people.
However, this oil is very popular in India. Although slightly more expensive than other oils, it is tolerable in the Indian market. Therefore, the use of sunflower oil is noticeable among the Indian population in different region but sunflower oil is not popular to the general public in our country.
However, the climate, water and soil of Bangladesh are also favorable for sunflower cultivation. It is being cultivated in many areas, but it is not gaining ground. Refined soybean oil imported from abroad contains risky ingredients. In that case, if only sunflower seeds oil could be grind without refining it, then this edible oil can also be nutritious and healthy.
On the ground, you can see different areas including the Teesta shelf, the yellow ceremony all over the field. Some people are also trying to turn around by cultivating this sunflower which is beneficial for heart disease. Due to low production cost, many people have started cultivating sunflower as a hobby. Shahinur Rahman has been cultivating sunflower as a hobby in the char area of Teesta of Laxmitari Union in Gangachara of Rangpur.
He said that sunflower seeds can be collected in 90 to 110 days from sowing to maturity. He has cultivated it in 20 acres of land only for sale as decoration and flower. Although 44 liters of oil is supposed to be obtained from 100 kg of seeds, but there is no opportunity to make oil locally from it. There is a demand for mature sunflower seeds for sowing as seeds in the next season. From every hectors of land 12 kg of sunflower seeds are produced. He also said that the price of one gram of seed is Tk 2,400.
Rubel Chowdhury, another farmer in the market area of in the same upazila, said that sunflower cultivation is very easy and low cost. This crop is not attacked by diseases and insects. Although the target for sunflower cultivation has been set in 25 hectares of land in Gangachara, it has been cultivated in a total of 16 hectares of land including Teesta Char this year.
Upazila Agriculture Officer Shariful Islam said, "Farmers are always encouraged to increase their cultivation of sunflower." The Department of Agriculture is providing all kinds of assistance to those who cultivate sunflower. 'He said that sunflower oil contains an acid called' linoleic '. It is very beneficial for patients with heart disease. If the common people are accustomed to eating sunflower oil and its use, the cultivation of sunflower will increase and the farmers will also benefit.
Sunflower farmers and general people said that the issue of physical fitness including purchasing power must be kept in mind. And concerned authority should come forward to increase the cultivation. If necessary, even with government subsidy, it should be kept within the purchasing power of the common man. That will decrease the dependency on soybean oil and the health protection of a large population will be ensured.
According to the agriculture department, sunflower has been cultivated in only 360 hectares of land in Rangpur region this year. These include 140 hectares in Rangpur, 140 hectares in Gaibandha, 75 hectares in Kurigram, one hectare in Lalmonirhat and four hectares in Nilphamari. However, last year, sunflower was cultivated in 1,407 hectares of land in these districts.
Obaidur Rahman Mandal, Deputy Director of the Rangpur Agriculture Extension Department, said efforts were being made to increase sunflower and mustard cultivation as an alternative to soybean oil. This year, hybrid varieties of seeds are being supplied to the farmers and there is a possibility of getting good yield. Noting that sunflower oil has more health benefits than soybean and mustard, he said.
He also said that cultivating sunflower will decrease the import dependency of soybean oil in our country and the farmers will be also benefitted.