Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Bhutan : Bumper apple crop in Paro

18 August, 2008 - Paro farmers are all smiles these days and with excellent reasons.

The boughs of their apple trees are bowed with ripe red apples waiting to be picked. They were though filled with anxiety at the start of the season.

Last year a late winter frost destroyed much (70 percent) of their produce, precipitating their worst year for apples.

But this season, thanks to their good fortune, apple-growers expect a bumper harvest. Farmers have started harvesting. The latest statistics reflect the surge. The agriculture officer in Lango gewog, Dorji Wangda, said that the yield in 2007 was 6-8 kg a tree, but it has swelled to 8-36 kg a tree this year.

Dotey gewog’s Ap Tshering Dorji, who owns 500 apple trees, said that he has more apples this year of better size and quality.

“There was no apple on some of the trees last year and, financially, it was devastating because apples are our main source of income,” said Ap Tshering Dorji. This year he is expecting to reap at least Nu 0.4 million from his apples.

The 41-year-old farmer’s sentiments are echoed in the other orchards of Paro.

Kencho Lham from Shaba gewog said that the valley had a mild spring with no cold temperatures. There was good early rain as well. “I could sell only 5 boxes in 2007 but this year I’m hoping to sell more than 30 boxes from my 70 trees.”

Apple is an important cash crop in Paro and Thimphu valley. It is also a source of hard currency earnings as the fruits are exported to Bangladesh, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.

But there are pockets in the dzongkhag, for instance near the Sarstham chorten, where apple trees have fallen victim to the late frost. “The yield is poor only in this area,” said Dorji Wangda.

By Phuntsho Choden

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