Apple production falls in Mustang as mercury rises

- BINOD TRIPATHI, MUSTANG

Oct 24, 2016-

Apple production is expected to drop by 6 percent in the western district of Mustang in the current fiscal year due to damages caused by hailstorm and low snowfall induced by rising temperature.

The district is expected to produce 4,400 tonnes of the fruit this year, as against 4,700 tonnes recorded last fiscal year, according to the Mustang District Agricultural Development Office.

“Production of the fruit fell this year as hailstorm initially affected the plants. Also, the district experienced low snowfall this year, which hit production,” said Prem Bahadur Tamang, a farmer of Marpha-9. Snowfall moisturises the soil, which gives a boost to the yield.

Rising temperature, which reduces snowfall, has lately started affecting crop production in many areas in the mountainous region. As a result, many farmers have gradually started growing crops that can adapt to warmer weather conditions. And one of the crops that has been hit is apple.

Around 15 years ago, for instance, apple orchards were a common sight in Lete. Today, this village does not have a single apple tree. Farmers of this village, who previously used to rely on apple farming for livelihood, have started growing potatoes, corn, and citrus fruits such as oranges.

As farmers are moving away from apple production, apple orchards now spreads on only 4,400 hectares in Mustang, as against 5,000 hectares several years ago.

“Around 15 years ago, this place was not that hot and used to witness scant rainfall. These days, temperature rises to as high as 26 degree Celsius. In this weather condition, apple trees cannot survive. So, apple farming has come to a complete halt at Lete and Kunjo villages,” said Pradhyumna Upadhyay, chief of the Agriculture Centre at Lete.

As apple farms have started disappearing from lower Mustang, have started cropping up in Upper Mustang, where mercury level still remains low despite rising temperature.

Many places in Upper Mustang, which were not ideal for farming some years ago due to extreme cold weather condition, are now emerging as hubs for apple farming. And from this year, the District Agricultural Office has officially started apple farming in Lomanthang, Choser, Surkhang and Chonhup of Upper Mustang.

These places, which used to be covered with snow for 10 months every year, have now started witnessing snowfall for around eight months every year. “So, these places have now become ideal for apple farming,” said Sabitri Baral, senior agricultural development officer at the District Agricultural Office.

Apples grown in Mustang are renowned all over the country for their taste. Apples produced this fiscal year are expected to generate revenue of Rs310 million. Farmers of this district sell apples for Rs70 to Rs80 per kg to vendors who buy this fruit in bulk. These apples are then transported to Kathmandu, Pokhara and other major cities across the country, where their demand is high.

Published: 24-10-2016 10:04

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