The orange depots at the Toorsa embankment in Phuentsholing did not get enough supply of oranges this season, say exporters.
They say there are fewer oranges in orchards and that the season could wrap up earlier than the previous years.
Bhutan Exporters Association had also timed to start the season about 10 days later than the usual season. Oranges were brought to the depots from November 25. There are also only seven exporters this year compared to 12 in 2016.
Although the market is good at the moment, exporters say the supply of oranges from the orange producing areas across the country is less by about 60 to 70 percent.
Manu Export’s owner Arjun Pradhan said he has been able to export six truckloads of oranges to Bangladesh so far. “Last year by this time, I exported 25 truckloads.”
The current floor price of mandarin exported to Bangladesh is USD 14.5 a box, which is an increase by a dollar from last year.
Sources say Bhutanese mandarin comparatively fetches better price against the Indian ones in Bangladesh market.
People in orange business attribute varying reasons for the drop in mandarin production.
Arjun Pradhan said it could be climate change that changed the patterns of rain and weather, which led to low production.
“Water sources have also dried up and the trees have died.”
He said that those places at slightly higher altitude, where oranges did not grow, have started to bear fruit.
“The orchards at lower elevation where oranges grew in plenty have no fruits and the trees have died.”
According to him, farmers also do not work on the orchards like they did in the past, as their focus has now shifted to cardamom.
Meanwhile, farmers who own orange orchards are also worried about the decrease in yield.
A farmer from Darla, Rinchen, said that although they take care of the trees, the fruits are decreasing.
He said there were many suppliers who visited their orchards some years ago but none had come this year.
At the Toorsa depot, an exporter, Pemba of Peling Exports said that it was time for the orange orchards to replace the old trees with new ones.
“People are still expecting fruits from the old orange trees.”
He said that today, more oranges are supplied from Zhemgang, Mongar, and Samdrupjongkhar.
“Orange trees there are younger than in other places.”
The agriculture ministry, Pemba said, should look at encouraging farmers to replace the orange trees.
Peling Export has exported seven truckloads until today. Last year the export house exported about 30 truckloads by this time.
In 2014, Bhutanese orange exporters generated USD 10.42 million (M), the highest in about 14 years. Bhutan was able to export about 26,728.10 metric tonnes (MT) of mandarin that year, more than double of 12,728.10MT produced in 2013 that generated about USD 5.6M.
In 2015, Bhutan exported 4,535.35MT, generating USD 2.08M.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing