Apple farmers toast good harvest but rue low priceKarnali, the country’s most backward region in terms of human development but famous for its delicious apples, has witnessed bumper apple harvest this season.
Karnali, the country’s most backward region in terms of human development but famous for its delicious apples, has witnessed bumper apple harvest this season.
Although the production decreased slightly in Humla and Jumla due to hailstorm in June, it almost doubled in Dopla and Kalikot.
The farmers, however, are worried due to the lack of market access and low prices. The farmers are forced to sell their produce at lower rates as the region does not have enough cold storage facilities for them to store the apples until the price is right.
Ongoing strikes in the Tarai region has worsened the situation. “There is no certainty about the market. The apples have already ripened and if not plucked soon they will perish,” complained Begam Shahi, an apple farmer from Foimahadev-7, Kalikot, who has 500 apple trees. “Already hit by the bandas in Bheri and Karnali a month ago, the Tarai strikes have aggravated the situation.”
While the apple farmers complain about the lack of market access and lower prices, district headquarters Manma is facing a shortage of the popular fruit. “Apple is sold at Rs10 per piece at Manma bazaar due to the shortage,” said Surya Bahadur Shahi, president of Kalikot Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “In the villages, people can by two pieces for Rs5.”
There are around 200,000 apple trees in 30 VDCs, including Phoimahadev, Rachuli, Jubitha, Pakha, Chhapre, Chilkhaya, Mugraha, and Sukatiya, under the Karnali Zone Special Agriculture Development Programme, according to Ram Kumar Yadav, a horticulture development officer at the District Agriculture Development Office (DADO). The district produced 4,000 tonnes of apples this year, he said.
The fruit has been a good source of income for the people. Even schools have planted apples for additional income. Phoimahadev-based Mahadev Higher Secondary School has 3,000 trees. the school has hired two additional teachers on its own. The apples are sold at Rs60 per kg in Surkhet and at Rs70 per kg in Nepalgunj, but the farmers get just Rs8-10 per kg. The Since Surkhet-Jumla road under the Karnali highway, which was built in 2006, helped the farmers to a some extent.
In Mugu, the production surged to 16 tonnes from last year’s 8 tonnes, according to the DADO. Senior Agriculture Development Officer Chet Narayan Pandey said production doubled due to snowfall last winter. Apple is cultivated on 1,075 ropanies of land in 18 VDCs in Mugu. Half of the production is supplied to Tarai markets.
Ram Bhakta Rokaya of Karkibada VDC said he has already delivered apples worth Rs300,000. But Pandey said the farmers were finding it hard to sell their produce due to the strikes in Tarai.
In Jumla, the production has gone down by 25 percent, according to the DADO. Information Officer Balak Ram Devkota said the production decreased this year due to good production last year. “Production does not remains the same every year,” he said, adding the hailstorm in June also played its part.
Jumla produced around 4,000 tonnes of apple this year. However, the farmers here too are at the receiving end of the Tarai banda. HB Enterprise has signed an agreement with the farmers to ship 2,000 tonnes of apples, but has not yet purchased. “Due to banda, cartoons and trays to collect the apples have been stranded in Tarai,” said Ram Krishna Chaulagain, a representative of HB Enterprise.
In Dolpa, lack of road network has hit the farmers hard despite bumper crop. According to the DADO, there are a total of 64,800 apple trees in the district, which produce 6,000 tonnes of the fruit, but it is expensive to deliver the fruits outside the district. “So, we are forced to sell the products at cheaper rates,” said Nara Bahadur Dangi, a local apple farmer. In Humla too, lack of market access has remained as the biggest problem. As the district is not connected with roads, some farmers deliver their produce to Taklakot bazaar of Tibet.
Padam Bahadur Lama, a farmer from Baragaun, said the although hailstorm resulted in a slight drop in production at some places, the overall production was satisfactory. “However, no matter how good is production, we do not get fair prices,” he said.
(Tularam Pandey In Kalikot, Rajbahadur Shai In Mugu, Lp Devkota In Jumla, Bishnu Lal Budha In Dolpa And Jaya Bahadur Rokaya In Humla)