Mandarin is the main cash crop to farmers of Gomdhar, Wangphu, Orong and gewogs in Samdrupcholing dungkhag, including Martshala. The dependence on mandarin for livelihood, however, has become inconsistent, with its production plummeting by the year.
“Mandarin production in our village has been diminishing since 2011 and this year’s production is much lower than last year’s,” an orange orchard owner in Wangphu, Sherub Tenzin, said.
An orange grower from Wooling, Sangay Wangdi, said mandarin production has soured in almost every village in Orong, including Pamalung, Mandhar and Rimung.
“Some 100 orange trees that used to earn Nu 80,000-90,000 would barely fetch Nu 15,000 this year from what is left to us after the fruit drop disease affected the trees,” Sangay Wangdi said.
He said the 68 households of Wooling that used to produce over 15-20 truckloads of mandarin annually would hardly have 4-5 truckloads of oranges this time.
Orong gup Khaojay said, compared to last year, mandarin production this year has declined in all six chiwogs.
Mandarin depot owner from Tokarong, Sena, who returned after investing Nu 7M in the business in Wangphu, Gomdhar, Orong and Samdrupcholing, said a major portion of the oranges perished from diseases like fruit drop.
Sena buys oranges from six eastern dzongkhags, including Samdrupjongkhar, Trashigang and Pemagatshel. “This year mandarin production isn’t any better anywhere in Samdrupjongkhar, including Gomdhar and Wangphu,” he said.
In Orong, production is down by about 75 percent, Sena said, while production in Gomdhar, Wangphu and Samdrupcholing dungkhag has also dropped by about 45 percent.
Gomdhar produced about 700 truckloads (6,300MT) of mandarin last year.
A truckload of mandarin weighs around nine metric tonnes (MT). Over 500 truckloads (4,500MT) of mandarin come from Wangphu.
Orong produced 100 truckloads (900MT) last year,while Samdrupcholing roughly produced 500 truckloads (4,500MT).
This massive production is expected to plummet this year. “Orong would hardly be able to produce 10 truckloads of oranges in 2013,” Sena said. Similarly, mandarin production in Gomdhar is also down to 500 truckloads from 700 in the past, he said.
Even Wangphu, which used to produce over 500 truckloads earlier, might just have over 300-400 truckloads this year. Samdrupcholing’s production is also likely to be only around 100-150 truckloads, half of what it used to produce.
Orange growers attributed the dwindling production to changes in the climate and erratic rainfall and fruit drop disease
“Maybe it’s because of climate change that orange orchards in warmer areas are perishing, while its yield in cooler places are increasing,” Khaojay said.
He said, with such trend in the climate, soon mandarin cultivation could become a cash crop of cooler places.
Natural disasters, like hailstorm and windstorm, during flowering season also hampered fruition. “A considerable quantity of oranges were lost to fruit drop and people could no longer use pesticides, as it has been discontinued,” Orong mangmi, Cheki Dorji said.
Some villagers also blame gewog agriculture extension office for not supporting them to treat diseases.
However, Orong agriculture extension agent, Pelden Tshomo attributed poor production to poor orchard management. “Orange trees need as much attention, care and nurturing as apple trees,” Pelden Tshomo said.
Fruit drop, she explained, is a disease caused by insufficient nutrients that could be prevented by timely watering and adding fertilisers, the practice of which is still lacking among farmers, she said.
“Given the erratic climatic conditions, improved nurture and care is the only way to reap a bountiful harvest,” Pelden Tshomo said.
The mandarin business is expected to begin from early December.
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