Erratic weather affects winter vegetable production

Nima | Gelephu 

Unlike the past years, farmers in Sarpang couldn’t produce winter vegetables this year.

Samtenling is one of the largest producers of winter vegetables in Sarpang. There are over 40 commercial farmers, mostly supported by the dzongkhag agriculture sector.

Most farmers from the gewog said they would be able to produce winter vegetables only by February, which is almost two months late compared to the past years.

Kamana Gurung from Samtenling said that she planted chillies four times after seedlings planted in September and October were damaged by heavy monsoon, wildlife, and pest.

“There were weeks of sunny weather, unfavorable for winter vegetable production,” she said.

Shortage of water for vegetable farming is another challenge facing the farmers in the gewog. Small ponds and tanks were built to store water for irrigation.

“It is not efficient to irrigate the large farm manually and we struggle to get expected yield,” Kamana Gurung said. “Labour shortages also delayed most of our works on the farm.”

Another farmer, Mani Raj Gurung, is planning to sow beans after heavy monsoon and rabbits damaged the first batch of bean seedlings.

He sold about 1,000 kilograms of vegetables in December last year. “I couldn’t sell anything this year despite planting chillies and beans for two times. I lost most of the crops to wildlife and long monsoon season.”

Sarpang sold about 3,000kgs of vegetables that were collected from Samtenling, Dekiling, and Shompangkha to Thimphu during the lockdown.

Official from the dzongkhag agriculture sector said the vegetables were mostly from the third phase. The first and the second phase of winter vegetables, expected to be ready for harvest by December, were damaged by erratic weather conditions.

Officials also said about Nu 20 million worth of seedlings, rabbit fencing net, green shed net, plastic mulch, and irrigation pipes were supplied to all gewogs in Sarpang through economic contingency plan (ECP) budget.

Agriculture extension officer with Samtenling gewog, Jambay Lhamo, said the production would increase in a few weeks time and help reduce vegetable prices in the market.

“The supply is usually less in the beginning. This could have led to an increase in the price of vegetables but we are encouraging the farmers to sell at an affordable rate,” Jambay Lhamo said.

She also said farmers tried hard to replant damaged crops but it was not possible. “The wages for workers have also increased. Some acres of beans were also destroyed by heavy rains,” she said.

Another farmer, Deepak Chhetri from Samtenling said the vegetables were sold as per the farm gate decided in consultation with the gewog and dzongkhag agriculture office.

“Farmers growing vegetables in large scale follow farm gate rate but the farmers growing vegetables on small scale increases the rate. This also affects farmers like us growing vegetables on a commercial scale,” he said.

Despite the damage caused by heavy monsoon and wildlife, Sarpang is expected to produce more vegetables in the upcoming months. Many farmers are into commercial farming in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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