Money

The hidden, dark side of Mustang apples

- BINOD TRIPHATEE, HANASHYAM KHADKA, PRAKASH BARAL, Mustang / Myagdi / Baglung

Sep 26, 2017-Apple farmers of Mustang are scrambling to harvest and sell their produce in time for Dashain. These apples can be offered as gifts to friends and family as they are a popular item due to their unique taste.

Demand for Mustang apples surges during Dashain, with farmers selling nearly Rs410 million worth of apples. In anticipation for the spike in demand for apples from Mustang, farmers started loading their harvest and sending them to markets 15 days ahead of Dashain.

According to District Agriculture Development Office, sales of apples began 20 days earlier this year.

Farmers had to harvest apples before they were fully ripe in a bid to meet the spike in demand. This meant that the quality of apples—in terms of flavour—was compromised as they were not completely ripe, in order to make a quick buck.

The government has tried to intervene and set prices but to no avail. Apple orchards are pre-booked by contractors who sell them when apple prices are at their highest.

“We estimate that about  4,100 metric tonnes of apples has been supplied from Mustang, which is equal to Rs410 million,” said Shivapujan Gupta, an officer at Agriculture Information. Apple prices this year has also increased by Rs20 due to strong demand.

Last year, contractors bought apples in wholesale markets for Rs80 per kg. This year, the price has reached Rs100.

According to Gupta, 70 percent of apples were sold out within the first week of Ashoj. “Production has also increased this year,” he said. “We need to wait till all the apples have been picked to gauge if production has increased this year.

But we are estimating a 10 percent increase in production this year.” 4,300 metric tonnes of apples were produced last year.

This year the production is likely to hit 5,100 metric tonnes. About 13 different species of apples like Golden Delicious, Royal Delicious, Red Delicious, are cultivated in Mustang. ‘Kya Ramro Syaubaari, Marpha Gaunwai Ko’, a song by Basanti Lalchan has further promoted Mustang apples.

According to a record at Agricultural Development Office, apple farms occupy a total land of 1,115 hectares. But only 415 hectares of land is currently

being utilised to grow apples, highlighting the potential for growth in the district.

“Cultivation of Mustang apples is likely to double in two years. Increase in temperature has caused apple farming to spread in upper Mustang,” says Gupta.

According to Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), the period of time taken by apples to ready for consuming after cultivation has reduced due to the change in climate.

Normally, apples take 42 days to ripen in cold weather. But as the temperature at Mustang continues to rise, apples are maturing even faster, at 36 days. With apples growing faster, businesses are taking advantage.

In Baglung, Mustang apples are selling at Rs180 per kg. And in Myagdi, mustang apples are sold at exorbitant prices. Consumers in Myagdi have to pay up to Rs250 per kg.

Contractors dealing in Mustang apples know that the demand spikes during Dashain and are marking up prices excessively. “Vendors should not mark up prices excessively in the name of festivals.

We will take strict actions against those who engage in price gouging,” said Assistant Chief District Officer Dhurba Giri.

Published: 26-09-2017 10:02

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