Mandarin which a decade ago used to be the prime source of income for farmers has disappointed them with yield plummeting this year.
Last year saw a bumper yield. A total of 23,482.95MT of mandarin worth Nu 66mn was exported to Bangladesh, an amount five times more compared to previous years.
However, this year, farmers said untimely rainfall during spring killed most of the trees. Earlier, it took four months to harvest the crop but now it takes only three months due to decrease in yield.
A farmer from Logchina earned around Nu 170,000 from orange last year. This year, he expects only around Nu 50,000 from his 60 decimals of mandarin orchard.
“We no longer rely on orange completely,” said Lal Bdr. Ghalley.
Logchina and Chimuna in Chukha are still considered hubs for mnadarin cultivation as farmers have acres of orchards. However, the orchards are vanishing with time.
“Orange contractors used to spend months in our village those days while harvesting and our children were also employed during the season but these have become things of the past,” said a farmer from Chimuna.
Farmers in bygone days would fund their children’s education and major festivals from the earnings from mandarin.
“Those days were favorable for mandarin; now, our children can only imagine the bounties from mandarin. All the trees are dying,” Kul Man Ghalley, a 62-year old farmer said.
The farmers foresee an even more bleak future for mandarin cultivation and some have decided not to cultivate their orchards next year.
Bal Bdr. Ghalley earned Nu 75,000 last year but expects not more than Nu 20,000 this year. “All our sources of income are drying up including cardamom and ginger,” he said.
Farmers of Ramitey said that pollution from the Pasakha Industrial Estate could be the reason for the declining orange harvest.
Foraging by wildlife like monkeys and birds is another reason. “Not only has orange production declined, the fruit is attacked by wildlife,” Bhaskar Ghalley from Ramitey said.
Bhaskar Ghalley had started a new plantation on two acres of land with the hope to revive mandarin cultivation but his project failed.
Another farmer, Padam Bdr. Ghalley has also stopped orange cultivation since 2013. He has more than four acres of orchard, which does not bear fruit.
Citrus Greening has also contributed to the poor yield, according to farmers. The disease has affected almost all the mandarin orchards across the southern belt.
Some of the farmers have not harvested the crop for the last three years. Now, most of the farmers have shifted to cardamom cultivation as an alternative. Mandarin cultivation used to be common in the southern foothills but now it is becoming rare.
Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing