Youths are paid Nu 20 for packing a box

Chimi Dema | Tsirang

It is almost 8pm. At the lone orange depot at Gosarling in Tsirang, a group of youths has not called it a day to grading and packing the fruit in the chilly winter night.

While a group of them segregate the best from heaps of oranges, a few arrange them in wooden boxes. The oranges are packed for export to Bangladesh.

For timely export of orange from Tsirang and Dagana, Dina Nath Adhikari, a Damphu-based exporter initiated the orange export.

The first truckload of oranges, about 300 boxes were sent to Pasakha on December 13. 

The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority officials in the dzongkhag regulated the quality of oranges at the depot in place of Bangladeshi importers.

From Pasakha, Indian vehicles would transship the goods up to the India-Bangladesh border.

As of December 13, the exporter had paid around Nu 6.5 million advances to more than one hundred orchard owners in Tsirangtoe, Kilkhorthang, and Gosarling in Tsirang and Goshi in Dagana. Farmers are paid between Nu 700 and Nu 800 for a box depending on the fruit size.

Three local contractors are supplying oranges from Dagana. The exporter had so far received about five bolero pickup truckloads. 

Unlike exporters in Gelephu, he said that getting workers is not a problem but they lacked the required skills. “It took almost three days, training local workers on packing and grading.” There are 25 workers including six skilled helping the others at the depot.

The exporter said that although he was not interested in the business, he took it up considering the problems of farmers.

“Had it been in the past, many farmers would have sold the entire orchards by August and September. But this year was different as not many farmers could sell them,” he said.

“The profit isn’t much,” he said, adding that the transportation alone costs him Nu 35,000 for a truckload. A box could fetch between Nu 960 and Nu 1,180 depending on the orange size.

He said that it has been a decade since he left the business. “In the past, I export almost 70 percent of oranges from this part of the country.”

Meanwhile, local contractors said that it was difficult to fetch expected rates in the export market, today.

A contractor from Drujeygang in Dagana, Jigten Dorji said that the price he fetched from selling a DCM truckload of oranges couldn’t recover the investment. “I have paid Nu 90,000 for two orchards but couldn’t get more than Nu 60,000.”

He said that a box of oranges could fetch only half the price of what it could fetch in previous years.

“I have three more orchards bought at Nu 130,000 but now I’m worried that I may not get even half the amount I paid,” he said.  “Actually the yield was much better this year but the price is disappointing.”