Dr. F H Ansarey:Bangladesh is mostly dependent on locally cultivated winter onions to supply its annual demand of about 3.5 million metric tons (MT). Nonetheless, the current production is around 2.5–2.6 million MT, which is grown on 237,000 hectares of land. To address the current demand the country needs to import 1 million MT of onions each year, at a cost of about BDT 40,000 million. The snags of expanding cultivation acreage in the winter, the scarcity of suitable land, and multi-crop cultivation techniques exacerbate the issues of production shortages and storage losses. Expanding storage facilities is a costly and time-consuming endeavor. Therefore, cultivating onions in the off-season presents a viable solution.
Through adaption trials, ACI Seed has been searching for a good year-round onion variety for the past three years. They evaluated a number of varieties before deciding on the 'Biplob' variety from a global MNC. Farmers in prospective districts participated in more than 100 demos, and the results were quite positive for this variety. With a yield of 30-32 MT per hectare, the 'Biplob' variety outperforms the national average of 10.82 MT per hectare. Cultivating this high-yielding variety on 35,000 hectares can bridge the demand-supply gap. 'Biplob' is also tolerant to high temperatures and heavy rainfall, with an average bulb weight of 70-100 grams and over 90% single bulbs. It matures in 100-110 days, exhibits disease resistance, and maintains the same pungent flavor (Biplob Pungency: 12.64 µmol/g, Standard: 11< µmol/g) as the local variety. Additionally, it is suitable for homestead gardens.
Promoting year-round onion production with varieties like 'Biplob' reduces the need for storage facilities and imports. The government can support this by distributing seeds, providing training to farmers, and encouraging onion cultivation as a cash crop. This approach can lead to economic self-sufficiency for marginalized communities and make Bangladesh self-reliant in onion production.
-Writer-President, ACI Agribusinesses Division