Flourishing orange farms

  • hit by labour shortage
- BHIM GHIMIRE, BINOD GHIMIRE, Dhankuta
Flourishing orange farms

Dec 28, 2014-

Pabitra Rai of Khoku-5 has 210 orange trees in her grove. In fact, the whole village presents a similar scene. There are lots of orange trees everywhere. “The period from mid-November to mid-February is a busy time for us. We hardly get time even to talk,” Rai said.

The only thing that seems to be missing is the manpower to pick the fruits and ship them to market. With young people leaving the village in droves for education and jobs abroad, there is a severe shortage of farm workers.

“If the new generation recognizes the opportunities available locally, they will understand that they don’t need to wander around the world,” said Pabitra’s husband Govinda.

Mekh Bahadur Rai of Dhankuta, who opted out of a government job, estimates he will earn around Rs 450,000 this year. His farm is spread over 13 ropanis of land. Another orange farmer Jitendra Rai, who left his job in the postal service, says his earnings are three-fold higher than what he was making at his previous job.

Orange farming has flourished in places like Khoku, Chintang, Aankhi Salla, Maunabudhuk, Bodhe, Belahara, Teliya, Takhungwa and Khuwafok of Dhankuta. These places have been acknowledged as pocket areas of the District Agriculture Development Office.

Such is the situation that these pocket areas now have access to rural road and the scenario has changed now with traders coming to the farms to buy oranges. Some of the farmers have become traders themselves.

According to agriculture technicians, orange saplings planted at altitudes of 1,000 metres to 1,500 metres start making commercial output within five years. Around 35,885 farmers in Dhankuta are estimated to be involved in orange farming.

In an area of 535 hectares of land, 3,500 tonnes of oranges are produce annually. As per government statistics, farmers earn Rs 110 million from orange farming annually. Orange farming is expanding by 45 hectares annually, and production is increasing by 20-22 percent.

A wholesaler in Biratnagar Sanjay Khatti said, “There was a time when we were compelled to visit the orange farms. The situation has changed now.” According to him, oranges from Nepal now hold a significant market share and have become a major import substitution. However, due to lack of ac old store, Nepali products cannot be sold throughout the year, and traders are compelled to sell Indian oranges.

Some farmers in Bhojpur, Dhankuta, Terhathum, Panchthar and Ilam do their marketing themselves. Local merchants pay for the fruits and the shipping charges. The area has also seen a rise in people who buy the oranges in bulk and ship them to the market.

Wholesalers have to pay Rs 14,000 for transporting oranges to the sub-metropolitan city. They buy oranges in bulk from the farmers and categorize them into four classes based on size and condition and then sell them at different rates. On Friday, the wholesale rate of oranges in Biratnagar stood at Rs 60 per kg. In the retail market, they cost Rs 80 to Rs 110 per kg.

Published: 29-12-2014 09:32

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