Road to Karnali: Apple growers going commercialApple farming has been booming in the far west region of Karnali due to ever-expanding road network that has linked farmers to the markets. It all began with the construction of the Surkhet-Jumla road a decade ago, which paved the way for apple farming to take off. Now, more and more apple growers are becoming commercial and making handsome income from the business.
Apple farming has been booming in the far west region of Karnali due to ever-expanding road network that has linked farmers to the markets. It all began with the construction of the Surkhet-Jumla road a decade ago, which paved the way for apple farming to take off. Now, more and more apple growers are becoming commercial and making handsome income from the business.
Few years back, apples used to decay at the orchard in the districts of Jumla, Mugu and Kalikot. Farmers used to sell apples at very low prices. Air transport was the primary way for traders to supply apple to the market. The road network has uplifted the economic status of farmers and traders even go direct to the farmers’ door to buy apples. This has empowered apple farmers to negotiate prices in their favour.
The government policy has also encouraged farmers to cultivate apple for commercial market. This has seen apple farming activities increasing drastically.
According to Regional Directorate Agriculture in Surkhet, 18,650 tonnes of apples were produced in the fiscal year 2016-17. The production statistics of this fiscal year is yet to come, but Purna Bahadur Thapa, official of directorate said the output has surged. “The government has made huge investment in apple farming,” he said, adding that infrastructure like road and other facilities like storage houses have encouraged apple farming.
Chaiti Bista, a local of Patarashi, Jumla has become a commercial farmer now. She used to grow apple as a hobby until a few years back. “There was no market before. Now, traders come to my home to buy it. Even if they don’t come, we have other options, to keep apples in storage and sell them during the off season,” she said. Farmers fetch double price during the off season.
In Jumla alone, 3,450 tonnes of apples were produced last fiscal year. This brought Rs160 million income for the farmers in Jumla, said the District Agriculture Development Office in Jumla. Bharat Prasad Kandel, an agriculture development officer, said that apple farming has been expanding. With the expansion of road network, a “one-home one-apple garden” campaign is being run in the district. According to the agriculture office, apple acreage has spread on 3,100 hectares while 900 hectares are producing apples.
Under the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project, the government has selected Karnali as an apple super zone. This project has helped in the management, commercialisation and promotion of apple farming. “The farmers don’t need to worry about market access now,” Kandel said. “If apple farming keeps on expanding, farmers’ income will also increase and in turn it will make Karnali prosperous.” Karnali has produced many successful entrepreneurs who engaged in apple farming.
Locals who could not rub two notes in the past are now earning millions of rupees. Tek Bahadur Shahi of Kalikot, Tilgufa Municipality is an example. He earned Rs1.5 million last year from apple farming.
Farmers are getting support for apple plants including water tanks for irrigation, storage and other farming equipments through the project, said Kandel. A minimum of 25 plants in a land is considered an apple garden.
Construction of two storage houses by the PM Agriculture Development Project has eased farmers. Before this, apples used to decay when they arrived late at the market. The construction of storage plant has directly benefitted 72 houses. The construction of storage has paid off well, especially to the farmers, said Pareu Bista, chairman of a local cooperative. “There is no problem of decaying apples.”
Karnali Province Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi said that apple farming will be prioritised in Karnali region. “Apple is one of the major sources for the prosperity of Karnali,” he said. “The government will construct essential infrastructure for the development of Karnali.”