It has been a favourable season for Dungsam Sanam Gongphel Detshen which runs an integrated food-processing unit in Shumar gewog in Pemagatshel.

The group, which consists of 17 members, supplies orange pulp to the Bhutan Agro Industries Ltd. They supplied 30 metric tonnes (MT) of orange pulp to Bhutan Agro as required by the company and they are now confident they can supply even more if needed.

They had also successfully supplied 24MT of pulp in 2014 and are hopeful that they will experience similar success this year.

The group has also resumed production as they had stopped about a month back after meeting all their orders.

This, according to the chairman, Tashi Jamtsho, was because the agriculture and forests minister Yeshey Dorji during his visit informed them to continue their production instead of waiting for the next order.

Tashi Jamtsho said they had actually managed to produce about 32MT of pulp but they had demand for only 30MT. They have again produced about eight metric tonnes.

“We’ll be able to produce more if there is demand since we received an abundant orange supply this season and most of the villagers have also started bringing their oranges here from as far as Samdrupjongkhar,” he said. “We’re requesting if we could supply 40MT and have requested Lyonpo to look into the proposal.”

The group buys oranges for Nu 10 per kilogramme from the villagers and sells the pulp for Nu 26 per kilogramme to Bhutan Agro Industries. “We only buy the export rejected oranges that are usually smaller in size and process them into pulp,” the group’s chairman said.

The group, established in Shumar chiwog because of its high orange yield, runs for about six months in a year depending on the orange season.

Tashi Jamtsho said the group is already working on other alternatives to make use of the unit during the off season so that income is continuously generated.

The group was initially formed in 2008 as a vegetable cooperative before it was switched to a processing unit when it was first established in the chiwog with help from SNV.

Meanwhile, the group is still waiting for trainers to come from Thimphu to train them on how to produce orange squash using a squash-processing machine, which has remained idle since its installation in 2007.

Tashi Jamtsho said the group members are keen to learn and start producing squash to generate extra income, which would also benefit other eastern dzongkhags as oranges can be supplied to the unit.

Tashi Jamtsho said they raised the matter with Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji and he agreed to look into it as well. “If we fail to produce pulp, we can always depend on squash,” he said. “We hope to receive a trainer soon and utilise the machine.”

Yangchen C Rinzin | Samdrupjongkhar