According to G. Karunakaran, Principal Scientist at Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (ICAR-IIHR), dragon fruit production began in India as a hobby in the 1990s but it was restricted to home gardens. “It was not done on a large scale at that time and was restricted to gardening as people were apprehensive about its growth since it is a cactus. It was started on a mass scale by the scientists of North Bengal University in 2013 after they informed the farmers about its potential and income opportunities,” Karunakaran told Mongabay-India.
“During some online research, I came across dragon fruit being grown by the scientists of Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU). I read about its rich properties and higher returns. It seemed to be a good alternative for farmers in north Bengal who face a lack of proper irrigational facilities,” said Amrendra Kumar Pandey, technical officer at Centre for Floriculture and Agri-Business Management (COFAM) in the University of North Bengal that initiated the cultivation of dragon fruit in the state.
“We procured around 150 saplings from BAU and distributed them among the farmers and also planted some in our campus. We were skeptical about its growth but the results were overwhelming. The farmers got a good price. We estimate the annual production to have increased to around 600 tons from 500 kg in 2014,” he said.