Phub Dem | Paro

Dago Dorji chose to become a lorry driver. Due to shortage of farmhands, he had left his arable farming land in Paro fallow for a long time. And then Covid-19 came. Driving is not a lucrative profession anymore and so he has return to his farm. He has ventured into growing hazelnut.

Hazelnut is not very popular among the farmers in Paro but then Dago has planted hazelnut saplings in his five-acre land. In Punakha too, he has planted hazelnut saplings, in about the same acreage.

“It’s a long-term investment,” he said. “The venture can enhance the country’s export market,” he said.

Lhamo, in Lungnyi, was among the first to venture into growing hazelnut in Paro. Hard work and long wait time are why most farmers do not prefer growing hazelnut.

In the eastern parts of the country, however, hazelnut production is good business. In the west, the main problem is the farmhand shortage.

Dago said that the farmhand shortage was not a problem now because many people, especially those who had been employed in the tourism sector, were getting into agriculture.

But then, even in Paro, water—the lack of it—is a serious problem for the farmers. Luckily, for Dago, the weather these past few weeks have been kind. There has been enough rain and he owns a water tanker.

Officials involved in the mountain hazelnut project say that water scarcity was the main challenge facing the farmers. Limited landholding is another problem.

Cheday from Haa also took up hazelnut plantation in 2016 hoping that by this time of the year she could make money from the fruits.

“It was a wrong investment and a waste of time,” she said. Trees have matured in some gewogs in Haa and Paro , but fruiting has not happened.

MH’s communication officer with the corporate department, Lhaki Woezer, said that following extensive consultation with stakeholders, MH had set a guaranteed floor price around Nu 34 per kg of quality hazelnuts.

She said that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests conducted a detailed assessment to determine the floor price. “MH’s guaranteed market and price enable growers to make risk free and sustainable plans for their future.”

More than 11,000 households are engaged in the hazelnut venture today. The project distributed 7 million trees.

Close to 1,400 farmers in Paro and Haa have registered to take up hazelnut plantation.