Early indication shows that orange production in the Eastern hilly districts for this season will increase by almost 50 percent compared to the same period last year.
The Agriculture Market Management Committee in Dharan along with local farmers and traders have forecasted that 10,000 tonnes of oranges worth Rs1 billion will be traded in the districts.
Last year, the Eastern hilly districts along the Koshi corridor recorded production of 6,719 tonnes of oranges. It was sold in the wholesale market at Rs90 per kg and fetched Rs 530 million, according to Laxman Bhattarai, manager of the committee. “However, it has been reported that the orange production has doubled in the eastern districts like Dhankuta, Bhojpur, Tehrathum, Khotang and Sankhuwasabha this year,” said Bhattarai.
One of the major reasons behind the surge in production is increased attraction of people towards the farming of the citrus fruit. Immediately after Tihar festival, 20 to 30 tonnes of oranges are being traded at the agriculture market in Dharan daily. Early indication also shows that Bhojpur is likely to be the number one orange producing district in terms of volume, replacing Dhankuta.
“After Bhojpur was connected with the market in Dharan with direct transportation services, the number of people involved in orange farming has increased in the district,” said Bhattarai. “That is why the production of orange has increased in the district.”
According to Gyan Bahadur Basnet, an orange trader in Dharan, the productivity of the citrus fruit is declining in Dhankuta as a majority of the orange trees in the district are old. “As the trees grow older, the production decreases,” said Basnet. “On the other hand, the productivity is high in Bhojpur with many new farmers venturing into the business.”
Although there has been a surge in production of oranges, lack of cold storage facilities is hurting farmers and traders of the district. As the oranges produced in the eastern districts are of high quality, a proper cold storage facility coupled with proper grading, packaging and leveling can displace the import of Indian oranges, according to the committee.
The concerned authorities have also ignored repeated requests from the market’s management committee to build a cold storage facility. In the absence of cold storage, some of the farmers delay harvesting their oranges in order to sell them later at higher prices. Such practice, according to experts, decreases the productivity.