Citrus greening and climate change are attributed for causing production to decline 

Cash crop: Although production has been declining over the last seven years, Mandarin growers of Panbang in Zhemgang fear the worst harvest would occur this year.

Mandarin has remained the chief source of income for people of lower Kheng. Households earned between Nu 15,000-300,000 during favourable seasons. For about seven years now, citrus greening and climate change have affected mandarin production.

“Those who earned Nu 300,000 in the past was able to earn only Nu 15,000 last year and this year, many fear they won’t be able to earn anything,” an orange grower from Tugudhemba, Bumpa said.

While orchard owners blame dust from the construction of highways and farm roads for the declining production and mandarin quality, Panbang’s agriculture extension agent, Thinley Zangpo attributed the dying of trees to citrus greening.

“Other factors such as erratic rainfall because of climate change is also affecting the flowering and fruition,” Thinley Zangpo said.

A mandarin grower Ngadha said there are about seven households that own orchards in Marangdhuth but only two orchards have oranges.  “Rest are either dying or has stopped bearing fruits now,” he said.

Last year Panbang sold around 20 trucks of mandarin, much less than the hundreds of truckloads that farmers there claimed to have sold in the past.

“There was nothing from my orchard in Marangdhuth last year,” Bumpa said, adding he ran a loss of over Nu 52,000, which he invested in starting the orchard as it was infested with citrus greening.

Similarly, orchards in Tugudhemba, which have over 6,000 trees has also stopped production.

“In Galabi where people earned Nu 200,000-300,000 annually don’t even make Nu 100,000 now,” Bumpa said, adding these owners feel they would be lucky if their yield can fetch Nu 15,000 this year.

Mandarin orchards in higher elevation like Dhongdhor and Nemray on the way to Bjoka are also dying from citrus greening according to the orchard owners from Ngangla. Citrus greening has reportedly affected Bjoka, Ngangla, Goshing and Phangkhar.

Along with the yield, the quality of oranges has also been deteriorating, according to Rinchen Jamtsho from Marangdhuth. The fruits are too small and no longer attain the orange colour, which is sought in the market.

“The orange covers are also infested with black spots,” Rinchen Phuntsho said.

Meanwhile, save of few, most mandarin orchard owners in sub-tropical are gradually moving on to other ventures. The farmers are now onto timber business such as plantation of teak and other fruit trees like mango, litchi and cardamom.

Tempa Wangdi, Zhemgang