Farmer incomes soar after construction of cold storesVegetables like potato and fruits such as oranges and lemons, along with other food items, sell for high prices in the off season.
Orange farmer Chandra Kant Poudel used to sell his fruits as fast as he picked them off the trees for fear they would spoil, as there was nowhere to store them.
The orange grower from Panini Rural Municipality, Pokharathok is now happy that a cold store has been built in front of his house. Now Poudel does not have to sell his harvest for whatever he can get. He can put his orange harvest in the refrigerated warehouse, and wait to sell them when prices go up.
Fruit and vegetable prices usually double or triple during the off season. Oranges are normally harvested in December. It’s February now, and Poudel has started to sell some of his produce for which he is getting double price.
“Oranges are normally available at Rs60 per kg during the prime harvest season. But when they were sent to market a few months later, prices had doubled to Rs120 per kg,” said Poudel.
Most of the farmers have started selling their oranges.
The cold storage facility was constructed by the rural municipality with an investment of Rs20 million and has been handed over to Shiva Shakti Farmers’ Group, a group of orange producing farmers.
According to the farmers' group, about 3,000 tonnes of oranges have been sold. “The taste of the oranges remains the same as before. We are excited to see our income double,” Poudel said.
Like Poudel, nearly two dozen farmers of Panini, Simle, Khidim and Pokharathok have stored their oranges in the facility. There are 250 orange farmers in Panini Rural Municipality.
Oranges, lemons and sweet oranges are kept in the cold store. Lemon was earlier sold for Rs60 per kg. Poudel said now they are being sold for Rs140 per kg.
"We had been selling oranges to customers by picking them from the trees and for prices offered by the buyers," Poudel said. “This year, for the first time, we have sold the fruits by keeping them in the cold store,” he said.
Many youths became interested in agriculture after the farmers doubled their income by sending off season farm products to big markets like Butwal and Tansen.
"The cold storage facility has doubled the farmers' income," said Revati Prasad Poudel, president of the group. “I am planning to keep some of my farm produce at the storage to sell them during the off season,” he said.
Potatoes, vegetables and food items along with oranges and citrus fruits sell for high prices in the off season.
Most of the farmers in the rural municipality have adopted an intercropping farming system that involves cultivating two or more crops in a field simultaneously.
Farmers say they cultivate potato, cauliflower, radish, beans including sweet potato, yam, ginger, turmeric and spice crops in the orange grove.
Achyut Gautam, chairman of Panini Rural Municipality, said oranges worth more than Rs70 million were produced in Panini this year. "Selling seasonal fruits, vegetables, spice crops and grains, including oranges in the off season by keeping them in cold storage plants directly benefits the farmers as they are sold at a high price," he said.
“We have also put forward agricultural programmes to increase production,” Gautam said.
"The region produces enough potato which from now will be kept in cold storage and sold during the off season," he said.
By producing vegetables and food items including oranges and citrus fruits and potatoes, the farmers now do not have to worry about selling them. “The harvest can be kept in the cold store and sold anytime at a high price,” said Laxmi Gautam, vice-chairperson of Panini Rural Municipality.
Malarani Rural Municipality has constructed cold stores at four places to store vegetables and food items produced in the village.
Two cold stores with a capacity of 100 tonnes each have been set up in Bagi of Ward 5 and Dakharka of Ward 2, and two with a capacity of 20 tonnes each have been built in Kunakharka of Ward 3 and Ratanmare of Ward 6.
These four cold storage plants were constructed with an investment of Rs10.29 million.
Netra Prasad Khanal, information officer of Malarani Rural Municipality, said the cold storage has been built so that food items and vegetables can be produced by connecting farmers and cooperatives, keeping them in cold storage and selling them in the off season.
Bal Krishna Acharya, chairman of Malarani Rural Municipality, said that the cold storage has been constructed with the aim of creating self-employment in the village by engaging unemployed youth in agricultural enterprises.
"Potatoes produced in season in the village are sold at cheap prices in the market. Their value increases by selling them in the off season after keeping them in cold stores," he said.
"The cold store will provide additional support to the unemployed youth to become self-employed by engaging them in agriculture,” he said.