Like every winter for the past 8 years, Duba from Dagapela heads down to Phuentsholing to invest in the lucrative orange season. This time however, things are not as rosy as the last 8 seasons because he is facing a dwindling price for his oranges in the market.
Mandarin growers this year could only get about Nu 1,100 for keel (smaller size) and Nu 1,400 for meel (bigger size) per box.
It picked up to about USD 16 for meel and USD 13 for keel in January last year. Both the mandarin growers and exporters said that overall mandarin business last year was good.
The floor price for the fruit in December 2022 was USD 15 for meel and USD 12 for keel per box.
Kiran Rai from Khatoeykha village under Logchina Gewog, Phuentsholing said that unlike in Gelephu this year, orange business in Phuentsholing is not as what farmers expected. He said that exporters are concentrated in Gelephu and there are only two exporters in Phuentsholing.
The mandarin grower said, “Less orange depot could be the factor for low price where there are no competitors,” adding that the farmers have to sell to these buyers as they had taken advance during the Dasai festival.
Another farmer from the same village, Bagbir Rai shared similar reason. He said that there is no competition just with the two exporters. He said that the business last year was good and he was able to earn about Nu 0.5 million while he is not sure even to get Nu 0.2-0.3 million this year.
Doing the business for the first time, Jitman from Dorokha, Samchi, said that the orange business did not do well. He bought the fruits in orchards from the farmers to deal with the exporters. But he incurred loss of about Nu 0.3 million.
Bom Bahadur from Zachu Chiwog of Logchina Gewog said that the mandarin market did not favour with good price.
A middleman, Tashi Chophel said that if he sells oranges to the exporters, he may not earn even his invested capitals. He bought oranges from the farmers and is selling to the Indian buyers across the border instead.
Tashi Chophel sells at Nu 2.7 per piece for smaller sizes and Nu 3.5 for the bigger sizes. “The price for Oranges at Toorsa export depot is low,” he said.
The fruit sellers along the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway also said that they could not get favorable price from Oranges this season.
One of the highway fruit vendors, Passang Lhamo said that the price for the orange this year dropped down as the packaging charges have increased.
The manager of Peling Export, Tshencho Nidup, said that the price for mandarin could not go high like last year.
However, he said that mandarin growers are still getting high price, adding that the mandarin from Bhutan exported to Bangladesh are mainly for consumption. “The price has dropped due to the weather condition,” he said, optimistic that the price will pick up after few days.
Meanwhile, citrus disease and bad weather affected the fruiting and this legacy has hampered the business, according to the farmers.
Kiran Rai shared that pest infection have been constraining supply of oranges in the market, giving a lesser hope to earn from Orange business. Bagbir Rai said that his fruits were damaged by the hail storm in early autumn this year.
Business Bhutan contacted the mandarin growers of Phuentsholing last year and shared the similar story.
Last year, Indra Bdr Rai said that the failure of citrus trees to produce a satisfactory margin of fruits even after abundant blossoming is often an exasperating experience. He explained that the fruit had shed prematurely, in the month of October that year. The mandarin grower shared that fruit harvest is plummeting year by year.
Sangay Rabten from Thimphu