Bountiful Apple Harvest Uplifts Nepalese Highland Growers

Bountiful Apple Harvest Uplifts Nepalese Highland Growers
Credit goes to Aash Gurung, DB Budha & Raj Bahadur Shahi

In the breathtaking highlands of Nepal, a surge in apple production brings joy, prosperity, and a cause for celebration. This bountiful harvest, predominantly in Nepal's northern regions, marks a significant turning point for the apple growers, paving the way for elevated incomes and an improved standard of living in the once-remote mountain villages.

Lamjung District Takes the Lead

Central to this transformation is the district of Lamjung, where apple production has witnessed a commendable surge, doubling the numbers from previous years. Although regions like Jumla and Mugu in the far west predict a decline in output, the current spike in apple prices promises to balance any potential income losses for the farmers.

The Road to Prosperity

Infrastructure advancements, particularly the establishment of highway connections to the previously isolated apple-producing villages, have greatly contributed to the upsurge in farm incomes. According to local reports, such incomes have more than doubled since these connections were established.

Arbin Gurung, a proud orchard owner from Tachai, Lamjung, beams with pride over his achievement this season. Having already sold approximately 500 kg of apples in Besisahar, he is gearing up for another dispatch of 400 kg. With a whopping 1,100 apple trees in his orchard, he revels in the lucrative returns, fetching as much as Rs200 per kg in the market.

His counterpart, Som Raj Gurung, has delved into harvesting the Gala variety and eagerly awaits the Golden and Fuji varieties' ripening, projected to be ready in the coming weeks.

A Glimpse into the Diversity of Apple Varieties

Intriguingly, the Gala variety is said to have matured earlier this year, as shared by Sol Bahadur Gurung, an apple cultivator owning orchards in Tachai and Nasku. He's already reaped 900 kg of Gala apples and anticipates a further harvest of 3,000 kg from his twin orchards.

Manang district, nestled at a staggering 3,519 meters above sea level, is renowned for its diverse apple varieties, including Fuju, Jona Prince, and Red Delicious.

The Magnetism of Apple Farming

Apple cultivation is captivating an increasing number of locals. Tisi Lama, along with four partners, planted a staggering 2,500 apple saplings of varying varieties. This year, an impressive 2,300 of these plants have begun bearing fruit, with Lama already initiating the harvest of the Gala variety for dispatch to Kathmandu.

An Ode to Pioneers

Polden Chhopang Gurung, a former parliamentarian, is credited for pioneering commercial apple farming in Manang. He introduced superior apple varieties from Italy and Serbia half a decade ago, which dramatically shifted the region's agricultural dynamics. His Agro Manang Farm spans 735 ropanis in Bhartang and stands as a testament to his vision.

Technological Advancements in Apple Cultivation

Rajeshwar Silwal, the acting head of the Agriculture Knowledge Centre in Manang, underscores the transition of many farmers in Lower Manang towards commercial apple farming. These farmers employ the high-density technique, a stark shift from the traditional method.

The new technique allows approximately 400 plants per hectare, a significant increase from the traditional 178. It also promises a yield of 40 to 60 tonnes per hectare, dwarfing the 6 to 8 tonnes from the conventional approach.

Concerns and Challenges

However, every silver lining has its cloud. Importing saplings for high-density farming is an expensive endeavor, compounded by the risk of importing potential plant diseases. Regions like Jumla have reported a dip in apple production, which local growers attribute to various factors, from inadequate rainfall to pest infestations.

Despite these challenges, the future of apple farming in Nepal looks promising. With relentless efforts from farmers, the backing of infrastructure projects, and continuous advancements in agricultural techniques, Nepal's apple industry is poised for growth and greater prosperity.