Agriculture: Trashigang is no exception to the poor mandarin harvest that has been reported in other parts of the country.

For the past couple of years, orange trees have started dying across the dzongkhag. In Thrimshing and Lumang gewogs where oranges are grown in abundance, the yield has dropped to an all time low this year.

In Lumang, about 80 percent of orange trees have been affected. For villagers of Chengri and Bemri who largely depend on mandarin business for their livelihood, most trees didn’t bear proper fruits this time.

“It has almost been about three years since the problem started. Leaves are turning yellow and most trees are dying,” Lumang Mangmi, Sangay Chodup said.

For households that would earn almost Nu 100,000 every year, Sangay Chodup said the income this year is expected to plummet to Nu 10,000.

“Save for few orchards in Chengri, orange trees in Lumang and Dori villages have all died,” he said. “Major mandarin growers in the gewog own up to 70 trees each while others own at least 10 trees.”

In Thrimshing, orange trees started dying since last year. Thrimshing Gup, Ngawang Dorji said the yield has dropped by 50 percent this year.

“Villagers of lower Thrimshing who solely rely on mandarin are worried but we don’t seem to know what is affecting our orchards,” he said. “We have reported to the agriculture extension office.”

Phungsing tshogpa, Tsheten Dorji said the gewog extension officer suspected citrus and asked them to uproot the trees for replacements.

“But we are trying to salvage from what is left or we won’t have any income this year,” he said. “We suspected rain water to be the cause but farmers who irrigated their orchards are seeing the same results.”

In northern gewogs like Samkhar and Bartsham, the trend is similar. Oranges have significantly shrunk in size and taste sour. Acres of orange orchards have died in the past two years.

In the past, two households together would produce about a truckload of oranges in Khaptoe village. Despite having no road connectivity, villagers walked until Trashigang to sell their produce.

“We would transport our oranges to Samdrupjongkhar also. Today, most of us have stopped doing mandarin business,” a villager, Lachi Seldon said. “I think it is the dust from the farm road that is killing our trees.”

Dzongkhag agriculture officer, DC Bhandari said the office has not received any complaints from the farmers so far. Investigations would be carried out to find out what is affecting the orange orchards.

“Production life of the trees shouldn’t be over nor dust from the farm roads could be a cause,” he said. “At times, water could be the problem since most of our orchards are rain fed. But, we need to carry out inspections before we conclude.”

Tshering Wangdi,  Trashigang