Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Despite the lockdown and related challenges, the mandarin dealers in Tsirang and Dagana dzongkhags are continuing the export of mandarins via Gelephu.

However, dealers said that since there is a short time for harvest allotted in a day, the progress has been slow. A depot owner in Dhupi, Tshering Zangmo, said that the past few days of the blackout have been challenging. “Due to movement restrictions, we’ve to be back home by 5pm.”

If the situation doesn’t improve, she said that they might run into losses.

The production, mandarin farmers said, is less this year compared to the past year.

A depot owner at Changchey, Penjor Rabten, said that a disease outbreak has affected mandarin production in the dzongkhag, which has been already dwindling by the year.

Since January 16, he could collect two pickup trucks of mandarins from farmers who had already harvested the produce before the blackout was announced. The dzongkhag has instructed farmers not to harvest the produce.

Although there is a 50 percent reduction in mandarin production, Penjor Rabten said that the prices were good. He pays Nu 1,100-1,300 a box to farmers and exports at Nu 1,600-1,700 a box.

In more than a month, he has exported 50 truckloads of mandarins via Gelephu. A truckload can carry 300 boxes.

He said that if the situation did not improve, he would drop the business, as safety is more important.

Sonam Dorji, who runs a depot in Dhupi, said that while work continues, movement restrictions have affected mandarin collection and harvest in the dzongkhag. Within the last five days of blackout, he has exported four trips of mandarins.

The size of the oranges is comparatively small and the production has declined too, he said.

“I don’t have plans to continue if the situation remains the same,” he added.

Meanwhile, mandarin dealers in Dagana continue to transport the produce at Changchey depot in Tsirang.

Nar Bdr from Tsangkha said that once they got travel permits and tested for Covid-19, they were allowed to travel. “We did not face major issues.”

With the support of gewog administrations, workers could harvest mandarins in the gewogs and chiwogs without challenges, he said.

The production in the dzongkhag, he said, had been good this year.

Phurba Singh Tamang from Gozhi made two trips to Tsirang in the last five days. He said, however, that prices could have been higher if they could directly export to Gelephu.

Dagapela Officer Commanding Lieutenant Jigme Thugten said that travel permits had been issued to ensure that farmers’ produce is not damaged due to the lockdown.