After three years of poor produce and prices, orange growers here are reaping the results of hard work

Agriculture: Villagers of Norbugang gewog in Nganglam dungkhag are brimming with joy this year. Not only are they enjoying a bumper harvest of high quality oranges, they have also managed to escape the pitfalls other orange growers are facing as a result of the demonitisation process in India.

Most of the villagers made a deal with orange exporters or contractors before the demonetisation of high denomination Indian currency notes occurred in India. They were paid in advance and as a result got the prices they sought.

This comes after continuous losses following a drastic decline in orange production in the past three years. The gewog is otherwise known for its high orange production. Orange orchards began dying with the citrus blight hitting them and neighbouring gewogs.

But this year, almost all the farmers, to their surprise, were able to fetch between Nu 30,000 to Nu 200,000 per orchard. In recent years, some farmers could not even earn Nu 10,000.

Farmers could not explain the high yields this year.

Each farmer has at least 300 orange trees in every orchard.

The farmers also earned extra this year. Contractors paid them Nu 300 a day to guard the trees. The farmers stood guard from 5am to 6pm to ensure wildlife did not damage their trees.

Ugyen Wangmo, 43, was taken aback when her 300 trees fetched her Nu 85,000 this year compared to Nu 5,000 the year before.

“We’re not sure how but this time it was different and we were able to demand a higher price from the exporters, which normally doesn’t happen,” she said. “When my orchard bore good fruits I was hopeful that this time I would earn more and I’m happy I did.”

Ugyen Wangmo added she was now relaxed and can comfortably meet her children’s expenditure unlike last year when she had to avail a loan to send her children to school and college. She plans to renovate her house this year with the extra income.

Orange is the main source of income for the gewog. This time some farmers were also able to harvest and sell oranges in Rangapani, the adjacent Indian border town, for Nu 150 per kilogramme.

Although many farmers said they did not understand the demonetisation process, they are relieved it did not have any impact on them.

Another farmer, Tashi Namgay, who made almost Nu 500,000 with his 1,000 orange trees, attributed the higher yield and quality mandarin to good weather. There were no hailstorms during the flowering season and the rains fell on time, he explained.

“I plan to buy a Bolero pick up truck, which I couldn’t last year,” he said.

Tashi Namgay said that the people realised instead of using pesticides, we should take care and provide enough manure. We have now already seen the changes, we’ll continue to do the same.”

While the farmers are skeptical if they will have another fruitful season next year, they are determined to take care of their trees.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Nganglam