Plantation of hazelnuts is picking up in Wangdue and the Bhutan Mountain Hazelnuts company is expecting its first commercial harvest in September this year.
Farmers in Wangdue have registered 80 more acres for plantation of hazelnut trees. This will be in addition to the 100,000 saplings farmers have planted in 15 gewogs since 2013.
Bhutan Mountain Hazelnut’s communications and training officer, Tshering Yangzom Kinlay, said that as of now more than 500 farming households in 15 gewogs of Wangdue have planted hazelnut trees with technical support from the company and the agriculture sector.
She said they would continue conducting awareness consultations with people in Wangdue, and also in other dzongkhags, and provide interested farmers with an opportunity to learn more about the benefits of planting hazelnut trees.
Tshering Yangzom said the first harvest is expected to take place in Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Mongar, Pemagatshel, Lhuentse, and Bumthang.
With more than 87 acres of fallow and dry land, Phobjikha has the largest hazelnut plantation among the 15 gewogs, as per records maintained by the dzongkhag agriculture sector.
Phobjikha gup, Jamtsho, said that while many are now learning about the benefits of growing hazelnut on large scale, some have not yet understood the benefits.
Jamtsho said some farmers even hope to plant more hazelnut trees but they lack land. Some even expressed the possibility of forming farming groups and taking government land on lease to grow hazelnut trees on an even larger scale.
“It could be because most people in Phobjikha have limited land that is already used to plant potatoes,” said Jamtsho. If the government leases land, more farmers may be encouraged to plant hazelnut trees, he said.
Wangdue’s assistant agriculture officer, Sangay Wangdi, said the farmers were encouraged to plant hazelnut trees on fallow land which many have done.
Officials with Mountain Hazelnut said they encourage farmers to take up plantation on fallow and uncultivated land to not compromise food security.
Across the country more than 95 percent of farming households have planted hazelnut trees on fallow and uncultivated land, said officials.
Officials also said hazelnut trees could be planted on mountain slopes which would help in sustaining other crops. Using fallow land means that the income from hazelnuts is extra, officials pointed out.