It is yet again the season for mandarin and farmers are busy plucking, packing and transporting the cash crop.

The area in front of the Food Corporation of Bhutan auction yard in Gelephu has turned orange as it readies for auction.

Farmers say the yield is better than last year but quality has declined.

Quality of mandarin is judged by its size, texture and colour. With declined quality, farmers are fetching lower prices for the cash crop.

Mandarin auction began in Gelephu since last week and the highest price fetched was Nu 5.9 and lowest was Nu 2 for salakhala (mix of big and small size).

Last week, Bishal Nepal of Gosarling gewog in Tsirang auctioned 9,000 pieces of orange and the highest bid he got was Nu 11,000. In his second trip, he brought 8,000 pieces and auctioned for Nu 2 a piece. “It is the size that determines the price. The price is disappointing,” he said.

Bishal Nepal said that the average expenditure incurred in plucking, packing and transporting oranges until the auction yard is Nu 3 a piece.

He said selling the fruit below Nu 3 is a loss. “I have booked at least 10 orchards and I hope to recover my investment.” He booked orchards for Nu 10,000 and Nu 60,000.

At the moment, most farmers bringing oranges for auction in Gelephu are from Tsirang, Drukjyegang in Dagana and Tingtibi in Zhemgang.

Another farmer waiting to auction his oranges at the yard is Leela Ballab Pradhan.

He owns an orchard with 200 trees. Last week he auctioned 7,000 pieces for Nu 19,000 and yesterday he brought 8,000 pieces.

“Although most of the trees in my orchard dried up, production was satisfying,” he said.

He, however, said that the sizes of orange from the drying tree are smaller. While he sold mandarin from the 200 trees for Nu 250,000 last year, he is expecting only about Nu 100,000 this season. “Had the quality been better, we would have fetched a better price this year.”

Officials at the auction yard said the market forces determine the price of mandarin.

The auction yard’s manager, Norbu Wangdi, said that this year even exporters exporting oranges to Bangladesh are bidding at the auction yard. This means a competition between Bhutanese exporters and Indian vendors and better rates for farmers.

“At least eight exporters are already in. The flow will be heavy by the middle of this month,” he said.

Last year until November 30, only three metric tons was auctioned whereas 24MT has already been auctioned this year. A total of 490MT was auctioned last year that fetched Nu 131.45million for the farmers.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Gelephu